Gritty Beaulieu adds unexpected offence

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE -- The London Knights haven't been the better team in even-strength situations during their Western Conference quarter-final series against the Soo Greyhounds.

You can blame some of that on the team's big guns, but don't pin it on tough guy Josh Beaulieu.

The 19-year-old Comber native has been a revelation with his passionate play in the four-game set against the 'Hounds. He's skating better than he has all season and has been running neck-and-neck with teammate Robbie Drummond for the top highlight reel goal so far in the playoffs after roofing a shot over Soo goalie Kyle Gajewski in Game 2.

"When you get to playoffs, that's the time to pick up your game," Beaulieu said. "It's a long season and you always look for one or two holes you might be able to find in a goalie that you can use in games like these. I like the atmosphere of the playoffs. I'm a hard-working player and this is a hard-working time of the year."

One of the prime reasons for Beaulieu's resurgence has been a recent switch to centre from left wing.

"When you're at centre, you get to use a lot more of the ice than when you're patrolling the wing," he said. "I just noticed that more opportunities become available and it gives you the chance to make a few more offensive plays."

Of course, the Philadelphia Flyers will like the offence but they picked Beaulieu in last year's NHL draft because of the intangibles he brings to the dressing room -- not an ability to turn in an instant and move laterally quickly.

"He's one of those character kids who isn't afraid to use his body out there," London head coach Dale Hunter said. "He'll block shots. He'll get in the corners. He did that ever since he was a minor midget player with the Sun County Panthers and that's why we liked him so much back then."

After picking up five points in 13 playoff games during last year's run to the OHL championship, Beaulieu has assumed even more ice time this season and is showing the promise that made him the Knights' second-round pick in the 2003 draft. He's not used on the vaunted power play yet, but he has earned the faith of the coaching staff to the point where they have had him killing a penalties lately.

"When I'm not taking a bunch of penalties, I'm out there killing them off now," he said with a grin. "It's great to be used in those situations."

Like teammate David Bolland, Beaulieu realizes he has a long offseason of weightlifting in his future to help build up muscle. Listed at six-foot-one and 188 pounds, he is still a slightly built customer and needs some extra beef to play his game at the pro level.

"I know that's something I have to focus on and I'm going to be busy after our playoff run," he said.


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