Pining away for icetime

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

When games are as important as those facing the Calgary Flames over the final weeks of the season, no one wants to be relegated to a supporting role.

Facing that very situation in Thursday's 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche, Kristian Huselius did his best to mask his disappointment.

But his sighing voice betrayed his words.

"I was just trying to stay focused on the shifts I got," said the skilled left-winger, who saw just six minutes of icetime, half of which came on the man-advantage. "I played most of the time on the powerplay and we got two powerplay goals. That was good enough to win."

The slim Swede went on to say winning is all that matters, and the victory made him happy -- which no one can argue is what drives players most at this time of year -- but he admitted he wasn't thrilled about his role.

Head coach Mike Keenan had Huselius parked on the pine for the entire third period as the Flames tried to make a two-goal lead stick.

He didn't play much in the first or second periods, either, as the physical nature of the game dictated Keenan's bench management strategy.

"He's fine. We just had a heavy game, and I wanted to use players that would bring us a little bit more physical play along the wall," said Keenan after the game. "He made a huge assist on the powerplay goal for us, but when it came to defending the lead after we had a 2-0 lead, they were playing some big people and trying to be physical ... and that's why I went to a more physical team."

With the intensity of games expected to increase as the playoffs draw closer, you have to wonder where that leaves Huselius.

A powerplay specialist? A shootout sniper should the final tiebreaker be needed until the post-season makes it moot?

Keenan says he will evaluate things on a game-to-game basis, and that he doesn't see why his talented winger can't get into more action, but he doesn't expect the 6-ft.-1, 176-pounder to change the way he plays.

He's not sure he could if he wanted to.

"I don't expect Kristian to be a physical player at all," said Keenan. "He's a skilled player who's a light player. He can make contributions in certain areas and at certain times. It's always time and score. We just make evaluations based on that.

"He can be a player that could be involved in terms of holding guys up to a certain extent, but the rules don't allow that much, so when you're that light and the counter from the opposite side is very heavy, then you make some selections during the game."

Huselius hopes to prove his coach wrong, however.

While he's recorded just eight hits this season, he feels he's capable of being physical in other ways.

"Yeah, for sure. I don't have a problem with the physical game. I'm not a guy who maybe gives the most hits on the team but I can, for sure, play in traffic in a physical game," said Huselius. "I want to be out there and play a good, solid game, even if it's physical."


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