Hejduk setting torrid pace -- even by his lofty standards

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Milan Hejduk is a 50-goal scorer with a nose for the net.

In fact, since the start of the 1999-2000 season, only three players (Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr and Marian Hossa) have tallied more often than the Colorado Avalanche star winger.

Yet, his quick pace heading into last night's clash with the Calgary Flames is uncharted territory for Hejduk -- the best start of his NHL career.

"I don't really pay attention to stats much, but it's been fun," said the right winger.

"The team is playing well, the whole line is doing well, I'm doing well, so it's a very positive start. There's a good feeling in the locker-room.

"It's fun. When you get on a roll like this, it's always fun."

And it's not like Hejduk is off to some impossible pace you get in early-season action. You know the type, a guy nets a hat-trick in the first game and somebody says he's on the way to a magical 246-goal campaign.

When the puck dropped at the Saddledome between the Avalanche and Flames last night, Hejduk was on pace for a 60-goal season.

To no surprise, the even-keeled and low-key 10th-year NHLer just shrugs about his early season success.

"Sometimes it's clicking, sometimes it's not. Right now, it's good," he said. "It's hard to explain. Sometimes, you don't even know why it's going well, but it is and you want to keep it as long as possible."

Last season didn't go all that well. Hejduk potted only 29 tallies for an Avs team that has plenty of offensive firepower.

A bounce-back season should come as no surprise, but he insisted offensive production wasn't his focus.

"Before every season, I don't look at the numbers and see where I want to be or how many goals I want to score. I never was that kind of guy, and I don't set my goals," he said. "I just want to help the team, have fun, and whatever will be the numbers, will be the numbers.

"When you go through stretches you don't play well, don't produce like you're supposed to or everybody expects, the confidence does go down. I wouldn't say you start doubting yourself, but you don't play the same. You don't try to do stuff you usually do, and then it can get worse."

There has been one key difference compared to last season -- his linemates, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth, have been healthy.

"That line was banged up a lot last year," said head coach Tony Granato. "Paul and Smytty went through a couple of stretches with injuries."

Which has the Avalanche again looking like a playoff team -- against the expectations of so many pundits.

"I heard some experts put us missing the playoffs, finishing 13th or 14th in the conference, but we don't see it that way," Hejduk said. "We have to prove it on the ice, and that's what we're trying to do, but we think we are a playoff team -- all 30 teams in the league think they are and have a shot at the Stanley Cup.

"This is a really good team, offensively, defensively, and we have good goaltending.


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