Hamrlik a time machine

Calgary Flames defenceman Roman Hamlik takes a drink of water during a break in practice on Monday....

Calgary Flames defenceman Roman Hamlik takes a drink of water during a break in practice on Monday. (Calgary Sun/Jack Cusano)

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

Roman Hamrlik seems to be getting better as time goes on. Well, as his time goes up, really.

The veteran defenceman has seen his minutes climb since re-teaming with Dion Phaneuf on the blueline and has become one of the Calgary Flames' most consistent players as a result.

It may be coincidental but the 32-year-old has been the team's most utilized skater in five of their six consecutive wins.

After appearing in just 51 games last season in his injury-plagued Calgary debut, Hamrlik may be playing his best hockey as a Flame right now.

"You can say that," said Hamrlik yesterday after practice at the Saddledome.

"Last year, I was hurt a lot and it was difficult for me.

"This season I feel pretty confident. The more I play, I feel better out there."

Some had written off Hamrlik as a top NHL defender but there's no doubt he can handle the new workload.

In fact, he seems to thrive with the added minutes.

"I don't hate it," said the Czech with a laugh. "I love it. I'm not 20 like Dion but when you get used to playing more, you feel good out there. You relax, just keep going and rolling, you're not cold on the bench."

With two 30-plus-minute performances and another handful near the half-game mark, Hamrlik has cracked the NHL's top 20 in average ice time -- a benchmark he's been familiar with over his 14 seasons.

"It seems like the more he plays, the more composed he is," said Phaneuf. "He logs a lot of minutes for us and he logs a lot of real good minutes for us.

"It's nice to be paired with a guy that's as skilled as him and as experienced.

"I just want to learn as much as I can from him."

Playing with 21-year-old sophomore Phaneuf seems to be good for Hamrlik's game, too.

The duo clicked when Hamrlik was healthy last year and the combination of youthful exuberance and savvy veteran leadership has provided the Flames with a minute-eating pair that can take a little pressure off the other four rearguards.

"I think we still can be better. We try to be the best players out there every night," said Hamrlik.

"We just know what to do, how to play (together) from last year. It's not difficult for me to read Dion."

Where the two differ is their choice of weaponry.

Both boast great shots but Phaneuf uses a one-piece composite while Hamrlik sports a trusty wooden stick.

That's right -- real wood.

"I started at 18 and we didn't have those Synergy, one-piece sticks," said Hamrlik. "Trust me, I try every stick on the market. I'll just stick with the wood."

But Hamrlik says he has taken some verbal shots from the sophomore.

"He gives me a hard time," said Hamrlik. " 'Get rid of that heavy stick, it's like a workout for you every day.' "


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