SUN Hockey Pool

Lady has hots for Huselius

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

It was a non-game day, in the heat of the playoff push, but Kristian Huselius wouldn't leave the ice.

Long after most of his teammates had showered and left the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the Calgary Flames left winger was repeating the same play over and over.

You've seen it before, where Huselius grabs the puck from the hash marks along the right wing, works his way to the high slot and fires a shot on goal.

Amazing to think, here's the player considered to be the most offensively talented on the Flames working extra time to perfect his skills.

"You can always work on some things," explained Huselius. "Noodles (back-up goalie Jamie McLennan) always stays out there, so it's fun to work on some shots.

"Sometimes it's fooling around and sometimes I work on some stuff."

The extra work has paid huge dividends for Huselius and the Flames. Heading into tonight's crucial game in San Jose, the left winger has obliterated his previous NHL career highs with 33 goals and 43 assists in 78 games.

Toss in the fact he's been flagged with only 26 penalty minutes and it's understandable why the Flames believe they have a legitimate Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.

The team will soon be handing out packages to the media stating his case.

"I've heard people talking about it but I don't know what to say," said the mild-mannered Huselius. "It's an honour to be mentioned in that category."

He may have a tough time comprehending a major award but Huselius has teammates who believe in him.

"I'd have to think of him as a front runner," said centre Craig Conroy. "The only thing that may hurt him is he's not as big of a name as other guys who might be up for it. But he's worthy."

The Lady Byng is given to the NHLer "adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship an gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

With a touch of irony, Huselius's breakout season worthy of Lady Byng consideration has taken place because he's shown to have more grit in his game than believed when the team acquired him in a trade with Florida in December 2005.

Huselius, who was available to all teams via the waiver wire within a week of the trade from the Panthers, was considered a soft player before coming the Flames.

Conroy has found that an unfair knock.

"He's strong on the puck. He battles and work hard. He's so hard to take the puck from," Conroy said. "He's not a huge guy but one-on-one battles, he doesn't lose many.

"He's night and day a different player. I remember him a little bit from Florida and saw him a few times last year but now, to actually play with him and see the skill level he plays with, it's amazing. He's coming into being one of the star players in the NHL, and that's fun to watch."

Huselius, one of four Flames in the top-30 in NHL scoring before last night's action, said playing with more bite was out of necessity.

"Stuff like that, I have to do. I've worked on a lot of things like that, to get better with the puck, not turn over and find my way to make plays in a good area," Huselius said. "And when you get confidence and prove you can do it, it builds momentum and helps a lot.

"I think I'm a better player here, in Calgary, compared to when I played in Florida. That makes a huge difference. Overall, this organization helped me a lot to improve my game in both ends."


Videos

Photos