SUN Hockey Pool

Keenan likes Swede fitness

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Not long after hearing his former Florida Panthers coach and general manager was coming to Calgary, Kristian Huselius was caught vomiting on camera.

While Mike Keenan is known as a fitness freak, the Swede doesn't blame his new Flames head coach for either his unfortunate post-workout purge -- broadcast on AftonbladetTV in his homeland over the summer -- or his exile from Miami nearly two years ago.

"For me, there was times down there I couldn't really get it going early in my career. What can I say? I struggled and couldn't really find a way to play my best hockey down there," Huselius said yesterday afternoon as the Flames prepared for today's pre-season opener against the Panthers (6 p.m., Saddledome). "For me, being able to come here to play in this hockey environment in Calgary, with the expectations here and everything, I got a lot better since I came here."

You could almost hear groans of 'here we go again' yesterday when Keenan tapped Huselius and told him to hit the showers early, but the coach was just protecting his player's health -- Huselius was bruised up the day before and was a little uncomfortable on the ice.

Truth is, Huselius is a different player now.

Even Keenan has noticed a change.

"Well, he's more mature," said Keenan. "I actually just had that brief conversation with him. First of all, he's bigger and stronger than he was a few years ago, which is quite normal for players developing."

Huselius chuckled when asked what Keenan -- who put the skilled winger on waivers after falling out of favour with the franchise, then dealt him to Calgary for Steve Montador and Dustin Johner on Dec. 2, 2005 -- said to him.

"He asked me if I beefed up a little bit, but I don't know about that," he said.

"I've always been a skinny guy, I can't really beef up like that. But I can always make sure I'm in good shape."

Working out hard enough to make himself sick isn't a common practice, but Huselius has been extremely dedicated to fitness over the past couple of summers while working with a personal trainer, the real culprit in the caught-on-camera moment.

"I guess my trainer, he kind of chose a hard day when the TV was there," said Huselius, who enjoyed career numbers last season with 34 goals and 77 points in 81 games.

"It was kind of funny. It was not funny but ... it was a tough workout that day and the TV was there and they got it on tape.

"It was one of those days."

Despite all the joking about players working out harder after the hiring of Keenan was announced, the Flames are focusing on fitness for their own benefit rather than their new coach's.

"It's not up to a player to work out for the coach, it's up to yourself to make sure you're ready to go," said Huselius.


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