Given Leeway

DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

It's not the start he was looking for but Lee Zalasky isn't about to hit the panic button just yet.

In fact, the veteran forward now knows there's more to hockey than just scoring goals.

"It's good to have all the credentials -- you've got to know how to play defence, too," said Zalasky, who's stuck in a nine-game scoring drought. "Going on to the next level, teams are looking for the more complete player.

"It's something I needed to work on and I guess if I'm strong defensively and don't let the pucks go in, goals will come."

In only 63 games last season, Zalasky scored 20 goals and 28 assists -- good enough for third on the Hitmen.

However, this year is a different story. After 11 games, he only has one goal and two assists. To top it off, the 20-year-old, who's now been placed in a more defensive role, is a minus-3. Coincidentally, Zalasky's last and only marker came against the Hurricanes -- Calgary's opponent tonight in Lethbridge.

"When you're expected to produce, it's kind of frustrating when you're not really doing your job," said the 6-ft. 195-lb. left winger. "They've put me into a little different role. It's more of a checking, leadership, defensive role. I just have to keep working and it'll come. I've got to do the little things first."

As frustrated as Zalasky is, co-coach Dean Evason doesn't really see it as a problem at this point in the season.

"We've been pleased with the way he competes. He works very hard and he's an important piece to our hockey team," said Evason. "He kills penalties, plays on the powerplay and takes a regular shift, so we expect a lot out of him.

"That's the role that we see him in and we think he's doing very well at it."

Zalasky, who's been teamed with Brett O'Malley all season, will now have European import Roman Tomanek on his line in yet another juggle by the Hitmen coaching staff.

The Lloydminster native hopes the new combination will help solve his goal-scoring woes.

"Tomanek is real skilled and he knows how to find the holes and that's something we need on our line," he said. "We've got to be creative out there. We can't just go out there with our heads cut off and expect to get goals. We've got to make something happen for ourselves."


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