Kaspar in comfort zone

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Lukas Kaspar readily admits he's had a tough year as an OHL rookie. But he's been encouraged during the last couple of weeks with his play during the playoffs.

"I love the playoff hockey. It's totally different than the regular season," the San Jose first-round draftee and Czech import said prior to yesterday's practice at the Civic Centre.

GAME 2 SOLD OUT

Kaspar was one of the main reasons the 67's beat the Petes in the opening game of the Eastern Conference championship in Peterborough.

Game 2 goes tonight (7, Rogers 22) at a sold-out Civic Centre.

Kaspar's work on Jeremy Akeson's overtime winner was nothing short of spectacular.

He used his speed along the right-side boards to try and get past defenceman Bryan Young.

The Petes blueliner muscled Kaspar toward the back of the net and checked him to the ice -- 67's coach Brian Kilrea later said Young couldn't have made a better play --but Kaspar managed to slide the puck with one hand on his stick into the slot.

Akeson pounced on the loose puck and got it past goalie Jeff MacDougald for the winner.

Kilrea said Kaspar's line, which includes Czech centre Jakub Petruzalek, was his team's best on Thursday.

"They have certainly picked things up and it gives us three lines that can go out there and get things going," said Kilrea.

Kaspar, in particular, has been in the spotlight this season.

He arrived in Ottawa with great expectations and was expected to be one of the team's top scorers.

At first, Kaspar looked ready to make that happen, scoring five times in Ottawa's opening three games.

But the production dropped off dramatically following the opening weeks.

Kaspar finished the regular season with 21 goals, ranking seventh on the team.

The playoffs didn't begin well for Kaspar's line.

It was benched by Kilrea during the third period in an opening-round loss in Game 2 at Barrie.

The message got through.

"He knows he needs to work hard to help the team," said the coach.

And Kaspar is encouraged with each passing game.

"The last couple of weeks have been great for me," said Kaspar, who has four goals and 13 points in in 13 playoff games.

"It wasn't an easy year for me. A lot of new things for me. My family isn't here. It's a different style of hockey. Different coach, learning different things," he said.

'DIFFERENT LIFESTYLE'

"It was a different lifestyle and it was very hard."

He and Petruzalek stayed on the same line throughout the year but played with different linemates.

They began the season with Peter Tsimikalis at centre before he was traded to Oshawa early in the year.

Bryan Bickell and Jamie VanderVeeken later spent time with the Czechs before Kilrea decided to go with Akeson on the line.

Kaspar said he likes the combination.

"Me and Jakub like to play with him because he's a hard worker and he gets a lot of pucks in the corners. It's good for us."

And with each playoff game, Kaspar believes he gains more confidence.

"Brian Kilrea gave a lot of ice time to our line on (Thursday). Me and Jakub like that because we used to play lots in the Czech.

"When you play a lot, you will score more goals."

IN THE CREASE: Ottawa will be looking to extend its home playoff winning streak to seven tonight ... The loss on Thursday was Peterborough's first in six home playoff games this season.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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