Friesen finally warming up

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

There are 29 games remaining in the regular season but Jeff Friesen is already getting that playoff feeling.

He says he's part of a forward line built for post-season play.

The Calgary Flames left-winger is on his longest points streak of the season and figures a key reason is being on a checking line with Stephane Yelle and Marcus Nilson.

"Winning the Cup in New Jersey, I managed to score some big goals doing it exactly how we score goals as a line," he said.

"You grind down low and create chances...Having a line that can forecheck is a big part of success in the playoffs."

The former Devil, Duck and Shark is known as a scorer, having netted 20 or more goals in five seasons, but he has adjusted his game playing with gritty defensive specialists Yelle and Nilson.

"With Steph and Marcus, we know what to expect with one another," he said.

"When you want somebody to go somewhere, they're there, and that takes all the hesitation out of your game because you just play. It gives me a chance to be a shooter, too, because those guys get in there and grind as well.

"We need to do that every night, relieve our top lines. We can contribute offensively but the main thing is to get that forecheck pressure."

Friesen heads into tonight's clash in Columbus (5 p.m., Sportsnet) on a four-game streak, with one goal and three assists. He's plus-3 during that spell.

Modest numbers for a US$1.6- million winger but it's an improvement on the 34-game goal-scoring drought he endured to start the season.

As odd as it sounds, Friesen believes adding centre Craig Conroy to the roster is a big part of his turnaround.

Conroy, Friesen explains, solidified the team's two top lines, allowing him to be part of a supporting cast that avoids scrutiny.

"It takes pressure off me," Friesen said.

"I'm a thinker, naturally, and getting into a slump -- especially playing in a Canadian market -- pretty much created a nightmare for myself," he said. "With (Conroy) here, and feeling the balance we have up front, we don't need to hang our heads all the time if we don't score. When you're not thinking about it much, things happen more naturally."

Like finding the twine with top-corner shots like the one he used to beat Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin Tuesday. "I feel comfortable here now," Friesen said.

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FRIESEN'S SEASON AT A GLANCE

G A P

GAMES 1-10 0 1 1

GAMES 11-20 0 0 0

GAMES 21-30 0 1 1

G A P

GAMES 31-40 1 1 2

GAMES 41-45 1 3 4

TOTALS 2 6 8


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