Slade finds chance to perform

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 12:15 PM ET

Some Western Hockey Leaguers, particularly those in Saskatchewan, think Vancouver Giant Dustin Slade is a little devil.

The 20-year-old Penticton native's trip to the New Jersey Devils' training camp as an undrafted prospect last year has put the goaltender's career on the right path.

"It elevated my game to a new level and really made me work hard this year to get that notice and recognition," said Slade. "And to see things pay off by winning as a team and the personal success when your team does good, I put a lot of focus on team aspects this year."

Slade began his major junior career with the Kamloops Blazers in early 2003. The Brandon Wheat Kings acquired him midway through the 2003- 2004 season and bounced him to the Regina Pats after a game. The Pats eventually traded his rights to the Giants last spring, a move that's making general manager Scott Bonner look like a genius. The club needed to replace Marek Schwarz, the St. Louis Blues' draftee who returned to the Czech Republic.

"It could be a perfect match for me," said Slade, whose mask conceals shaggy hair and a playoff beard. "It's what I've always wanted: A team that's doing anything to win and they treat you with such professionalism."

Of Slade's career-best 36 regular season wins, 11 were shutouts. He finished with a 1.90 goals against average and has dominated with a 5-2 playoff record. He stopped 25 of 27 Winter Hawks' shots in the two opening games of the WHL quarterfinal series.

Slade credits Bonner, coach Don Hay and goaltending coach Bill Ranford for aiding his resurgence.

"They put me in this position and really believe I can do the job and I've switched around," he said.

"I play every game for those guys for helping me."


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