Kristian revival

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

Ponce de Leon's quest for the Fountain of Youth took him to Florida.

Kristian Huselius has found a magic elixir by leaving the Sunshine State for north of the 49th Parallel.

When the now Calgary Flames forward left Florida, his game was at an all-time low.

Struggling mightily to find his offensive touch with the bottom-feeding Panthers, he's found it since arriving in the Stampede City.

In the dozen games Huselius has played for the Flames since being acquired Dec. 2, he's potted four goals and 10 assists, numbers he'll look to improve on today when they face the Chicago Blackhawks at the 'Dome (1 p.m., Sportsnet, FAN 960).

By comparison, he only had five goals and three assists in 24 games before the swap, which saw Steve Montador go the other way.

"It's been great. It's so good to be here," said Huselius after yesterday's practice. "When you're with a team that's fighting for the top spots in the division and the conference, it makes it that much more exciting to be out there."

Jason Wiemer, who played with Huselius in Florida, said he's seen a player caught up in the excitement of playing for a winning team for the first time in his career.

"It's atmosphere," Wiemer said. "He was in Florida where his confidence probably wasn't there and he's a guy that needs to play with confidence.

"He came here, gets a fresh start and gets to play the way he can to be successful.

"Then, things have gone in for him, he's getting the ice time and opportunity to succeed and he's done it."

That Huselius had an offensive touch is no surprise. In his rookie NHL season of 2001-02, he scored 23 goals to go with 22 assists en route to finishing third in the Calder Trophy voting. He followed that up with another 20-goal season.

However, his game on this side of the Atlantic went down the drain.

He scored only 10 times in the 2003-04 season, fell out of favour with a Panthers organization that put him on waivers before he was traded.

However, upon arriving to the Flames, he had three assists in his first game and he hasn't looked back.

"When you get confidence, too, you get better every day," said the 27-year-old. "We had a tough time in Florida, lost 12 in a row, and it gets tough to get up for every game. "It was very disappointing and when the whole team gets into a big hole, it's tough to get out of it. When the team effort isn't as good as you want, everybody loses that confidence."

Huselius points out there is more to his improved play than just a change of scenery.

Put in a role to score with top players, he has been allowed to play a game he prefers.

"There is a difference between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference," he explained. "In the Western Conference, there's more skating and a faster game. The East has more trapping games.

"When you play for a good team, good things happen if you go out and work hard. It's exciting to go out there to win the games."

Wiemer said a player like Huselius can fit into the game plan devised by GM/head coach Darryl Sutter, so long as he's doing his job.

"He does compete," Wiemer said. "To play for Darryl, I don't think you have to be a rock-'em, sock-'em, fight-every-night guy. If you compete and play hard -- and he does -- you can play for him."


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