Scratch rubs Flame wrong way

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

The beginning of the end for Kristian Huselius in Florida began with an early-season scratch.

After going through the same frustrating experience last Saturday, the Calgary Flames left winger vows to ensure he's not on a similar path out of the Stampede City.

Huselius, sat for the Flames game against St. Louis, returned to the lineup in Tuesday's win over Dallas.

Not only did Huselius score the insurance empty-net goal but he returned to the top line with Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow for 17 minutes of game action.

"It's tough to be sat out but I think you just have to move forward and get better next game and go from there," said the soft-spoken forward, who -- like his teammates -- enjoyed an optional practice yesterday at the Saddledome.

"If the coach is not happy with your play, you have to get better and play at the level he wants.

"It starts with skating hard. When you stop skating, you start thinking too much and it's tough to play hockey at this level."

It had the makings of the trip that sent the soon-to-be 28-year-old out of Florida nearly a year ago.

Huselius, who netted 23 goals as a rookie and 20 in the ensuing 2002-03 season with the Panthers, fell out of favour in Florida early last season.

In a terrible slump and offering little defensively, he was pulled from the lineup for a couple of outings and even placed on waivers before being traded to Calgary for defenceman Steve Montador and a prospect.

All went well after joining the Flames -- he managed to post another 20-goal season and even put up two goals and four assists in the seven-game playoff series loss to Anaheim.

But that momentum wasn't carried into this season. Struggling to find his game, Huselius, with a minus-3 rating at the time to go with two goals and two assists, was given a seat.

Huselius said he didn't see a correlation between being sat for the first time and what transpired with the Panthers in Florida.

"It was pretty much because I was waiting for something to happen down there, get away from there," he said. "Things now are a little bit different, I think."

Instead, he views the experience for what it more likely is -- a nudge.

The Flames are not as offensively anemic as perceived -- though still in the bottom third of the league -- but they can ill afford to be without production from the skilled Huselius.

If it takes a banishment to light the fire, so be it.

He understands.

"You get p---ed off. That's what I think every player would be," he said.

Head coach Jim Playfair, whose team will be back in action tomorrow night against the Anaheim Ducks, said the sitting was a reminder, nothing more.

"Hey, he came back and responded and that's all that matters," Playfair said.


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