SUN Hockey Pool

Alex rolls with new role

STEVE MACFARLANE, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- Notoriously hard on himself, Alex Tanguay's frustration is palpable even after a victory.

The left-winger who's always been as excited as a kid in a candy store to play alongside sniper Jarome Iginla is no longer getting that chance.

At least, not consistently.

Carving out a significantly different role, the playmaker has been killing penalties as a way of contributing, while Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow enjoy the fruits of joining forces with Iginla.

Discussion about his unexpected time on the opposite end of the special-teams spectrum after eating up powerplay time for much of the season gradually turned into a talk about his offensive production.

For most, 28 points in 33 games is a pretty strong bottom line. But for Tanguay, it's a funk -- in his own mind moreso than any other.

"It's certainly not going well for me, that's for sure," Tanguay said with a shrug after a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night.

"I don't know what I can say. Coming into the year, I was feeling great. I played some pretty good hockey. The puck never seems to bounce my way.

"Hopefully, it starts bouncing my way here and there and I can start getting some points. But as long as the team is winning, I'll be happy."

The team has been winning -- four in a row on the road so far with tonight's date against the Blues and Tuesday's finale in Columbus on the horizon -- despite some large holes in their play.

Strong goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff and top-line-loaded offensive numbers coming primarily from Huselius and Iginla are compensating for some major defensive lapses.

Count the improved penalty killing among the factors leading to wins lately, which includes Tanguay.

"When things aren't going well, then you can build on those small components and build your confidence," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan, who was specifically addressing another forward in an offensive slump in Matthew Lombardi but whose words can also be applied to Tanguay and his minutes with the shorthanded unit.

It's not the first time the 28-year-old has tried his skilled hands at the defensive side of special teams.

Under head coach Tony Granato -- who had a short reign as the bench boss before being reassigned as an associate in Denver -- Tanguay was part of a penalty-killing unit for the first time as a pro.

"He was kind of the only guy that played me there and now it's starting again," said Tanguay, who may lose a couple of minutes of ice time in other situations because of the role but enjoys it anyway.

"Sure. It gets you involved in the game. It's fun."

The Flames have given up the most shorthanded goals against in the league so far this season, and it stands to reason a quick player with some flashy moves may be able to balance it out.

"I haven't been trying to get too much offence on the penalty kill," said Tanguay. "Hopefully you do get the breaks here and there, but just trying to make good plays and be quick on the forecheck, not let them set up in our zone.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can to help the puck stay away from our net."

Scoring or setting up those who do is what Tanguay does best, so his confidence could get a boost from this new role that requires a little more grit from the winger.

"It can certainly help."


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