Pushy feels need to open up

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Konstantin Pushkarev has never been in a WHL playoff game but he knows where the emphasis lies.

The shifty Calgary Hitmen forward, who has terrorized opposing teams with his ability to keep the puck on a string, figures there won't be much room on the ice when the Hitmen open the post-season tomorrow night in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes.

"It's more hard because it was close to the playoffs and I didn't get any open ice. Maybe one month ago I could have done some things but right now it's too hard," said Pushkarev, 20, whose English skills are improving.

"I feel the scores will maybe be 1-0 or 2-1.

"That's not my game."

No it's not, as the talented winger, who finished second in team scoring with 22 goals and 30 assists, would much rather see plenty of open space so he can work his magic.

Fans have witnessed the skill he brings to the rink. They've seen him turn defencemen into pylons with ease and make goalies look like they're still in midget.

But the 6-ft. 1-in., 180-lb. L.A. Kings prospect from Kazakhstan acknowledged he's prepared to focus on defensive play for the playoff run.

"I think can I can play D. The game before in Lethbridge (a 1-0 win), I did that and I think I'll do the same in the playoffs," he said.

"The teams are very close and we can beat this team if we play very good D."

As the WHL season wrapped up last week, Pushkarev, who plays on a line with Brett O'Malley and Tyrel Lucas, noticed opposing clubs covering him like a blanket. He couldn't find any room to wheel and didn't register a point in Calgary's final two contests.

He registered an even plus-minus during those games, so his defence wasn't too bad.

And he's still the only player on the Hitmen -- likely the entire WHL -- who uses a wooden stick.

Pushkarev has tried the newer Synergy sticks but can't get used to the feel, no matter how hard he tries.

"I tried them for maybe two weeks and I didn't like them," he said.

After trying to rein in the flashy forward earlier this season, Calgary co-coach Dean Evason said the talented sniper now has a little more leeway.

"At the start of the year, he struggled on right wing, turned a lot of pucks over at the blueline and didn't get pucks deep but we've had to step back as a coaching staff to allow him to be creative," said Evason, who like the rest of those watching the Hitmen, marvels at Pushkarev's offensive talent.

"We want him to score goals and create offensively, so we're going to give up a little bit on the defensive side."


Videos

Photos