SUN Hockey Pool

Kobasew has more to offer

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

Everyone expected to see an improved Chuck Kobasew this season.

One with more confidence, more speed and, ultimately, would supply more goals for the Calgary Flames.

Was a sign of a new weapon in his arsenal shown in the club's first home pre-season game?

Kobasew, an advertised sniper when chosen in the first round of the 2001 draft, absolutely shattered a pane of the Saddledome's Plexiglas with a slapshot.

Was it, as the late Danny Gallivan used to say "a connonating drive" from adding some 20 kms per hour?

"I'd like to think that but it's not the case," shrugged the right wing. "No, just a fluke. It must have been the way the puck hit the glass. It wasn't going hard, that's for sure.

"I was trying to get it up and high and just missed the crossbar by a foot or two."

The players received an off day yesterday but will return this morning to practice and begin preparation for tomorrow night's pre-season meeting with Vancouver.

Funny thing is, in Kobasew's young career it's the second time he's sent the Saddledome crews scrambling to replace the glass.

A few years back, a body check on Buffalo's Jay McKee sent a pane crashing to the ice.

Hard to believe Kobasew's a real favourite of the building crew, since those aren't cheap.

"It was good for them to get ready for the regular season," he said.

The same could be said for Kobasew.

Now in his fourth year as a pro, the time has come for Kobasew to begin delivering on his promise.

All signs are pointing at a huge boost, something captain Jarome Iginla has taken notice.

"He's getting stronger and his whole game is just developing, getting to the next level," Iginla said. "He is quick, is a fast player, and part of being fast as a player -- and I'm learning this myself -- is learning how to use it.

"I know he had a great year last year, and is showing bursts and the ability to drive wide."

Having netted one assist in a pair of pre-season tilts, Kobasew hasn't shown an offensive explosion but there's no doubt he's showing more speed.

In part, it's because of the clampdown on obstruction but also by design.

"The last two summers I really focused on speed," said Kobasew. "With the rules that will let players play and skate, it's going to be an advantage for us forwards. I know I'm excited about that.

"It's going to be great for the game, going to be a fast game. Players are going to be able to show their speed and show their skill."

Of course, it doesn't hurt Kobasew's confidence is sky high thanks to an outstanding season during the lockout.

Sent to the AHL, he netted 38 goals, 75 points and an excellent plus-37 rating.

"It was great for me.

"I was able to go down there, play a lot, play in key situations," he said.

"Plus, I was able to stay in shape and work on stuff.

"It was a great opportunity for me."

Iginla, who's trained with Kobasew the last couple of summers in Kelowna, said he can see a difference, noting how much more confident the young vet plays with the puck.

"A lot of guys have some very good moves but don't always try them because they don't have the confidence to try them, things like holding the puck for the extra second," he said.

"It's finding that balance, when to and when not, and you can see he's gaining that.

"He's going to be a big part of our club."


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