Godard: More than fists

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Streaking down the middle of the ice in the third period the last time these teams met, the big winger tapped home what would be the winning goal.

His Calgary Flames teammates went wild and followed his lead with two more goals in the final frame to cement a 7-4 win over the Nashville Predators earlier this month.

The unlikely hero: Tough-guy Eric Godard.

Since then, the 6-ft.-4 enforcer has been noticeable on the ice for more than just his fighting.

"He has improved since training camp. I think the idea is he'd like to get more icetime. He continues to work at his game, and that's the whole idea," said head coach Mike Keenan yesterday as the Flames prepared for a rematch with the Preds.

"It's fine to be known as an enforcer -- if you like to use that word -- or a tough competitor, but you have to be able to play the game as well and you have to put in minutes.

"Particularly in the game today where you can't make a change on an icing, for example. You have to be ready to play against the best players on the other team because usually that happens," Keenan added. "Those are the things we'll continue to work with and help him make the transition to becoming a better NHL player."

He's already come a long way thanks in part to Keenan's vocal attention during rigorous practices. And Godard is enthusiastic about the opportunities he's being given to prove himself as more than just an NHL goon.

In fact, there were a pair of fights in two separate games last week, and neither involved the team's heavyweight.

"I'm loving it," said the surprisingly soft-spoken 27-year-old. "I'm getting a chance to play here -- getting a few more minutes, playing in the third period.

"It's just exciting."

Godard is earning any extra minutes he gets, says the coach.

"Put it this way," said Keenan. "The way that I coach, if I wasn't confident in him, he wouldn't be on the ice."

His time with the Omaha Knights of the AHL last season was a blessing in disguise.

It's believed he filed for arbitration this year to score a one-way contract this season but credits the 36 games he played in the minors with helping him view his game differently.

"It was good," admitted Godard. "A little bit of an adjustment period, but after that ... that's when I started to play more. I got to play the penalty kill. It was a lot of fun.

"I killed one penalty in Long Island," Godard added. "Then, I got hurt and missed the rest of the year."

Flames teammate Adrian Aucoin was a member of the New York Islanders when Godard broke into the league in 2002-03, so he's got a unique perspective of the strides the former Lethbridge Hurricanes star has made.

"You would never know from watching practice or anything that he's the guy that goes and beats the crap out of everybody and that's his role, because he fits in," said Aucoin. "Not to say he wasn't a good player when he first came up, but he's definitely improved just about every aspect of his game."

It helps, adds Aucoin, when a head coach -- like Keenan -- is eager to help a player like Godard evolve.

"It's always nice when you have a coach that doesn't treat you like a piece of meat and send you out after guys.

"It helps to treat him like a real player."


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