SUN Hockey Pool

Veteran d-man hits the big time -- in minutes

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Logging big minutes is nothing new to Adrian Aucoin.

The Calgary Flames defenceman twice surpassed the 40-minute barrier in regular-season contests while he was with the New York Islanders.

Still, there was something unfamiliar about him being on the ice so often in the last couple of contests.

"That was a lot of clutch-and-grab in those (Islanders) days," Aucoin said. "In your defensive zone, you could just pin a guy to the boards and that would last a good 10, 15 seconds. Then you'd pin another guy, and that was your shift.

"Now there's a lot more skating, so more smarts and skating is involved."

He didn't reach that lofty 40-minute mark against the Colorado Avalanche in either of Calgary's back-to-back wins. Not even 30 minutes.

But consider this: Aucoin led all players in the last outing -- even Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr -- with 28 minutes and seven seconds. In the first half of the home-and-home series, his total was 25:28.

"It's a lot of ice time, especially a couple of games in a row," Aucoin said. "It's a change. A whole bunch of games before that, I was in the teens, so it's a lot, but it's easier when the team's playing the way we are.

"A lot of the time has been in the offensive zone. When you play those minutes in your zone backchecking and fighting for loose pucks, it wears on you."

Prior to those games against the Avs, Aucoin's average ice time was 17:26.

The increase stems from being paired with Regehr, the club's top shutdown defender, and getting more first-line powerplay time.

"He's an intelligent player and knows the game well, and he can take minutes because of his skills -- his skating in particular," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "He's done it in his past -- not as often here -- but he's thriving on it right now.

"I think that was a good move for us because he can log the ice time and brings experience."

Aucoin's key third-period goal was the winner in last Tuesday's victory.

However, he knows things can change in a hurry.

"Mike is one of those guys who just goes with his gut," Aucoin said. "What every professional athlete likes is the playing time.

"It makes things easier.

"You don't have that downtime between shifts to worry about things, and you get a better sense of the game."


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