Sarich goes on offensive

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

For much of his two seasons with the Calgary Flames, defenceman Cory Sarich was more worried about what went on behind his own blueline than trying to find out what it was like to hang out on the entry way to the offensive zone.

But five points in five games tells you he's exploring enemy territory.

The 6-foot-4, 207-lb. rearguard had a three-point effort, including just his second goal of the season, Saturday night in Phoenix.

He's on pace for a 22-point campaign, his best of a decade in the National Hockey League.

Sarich has added a few wrinkles, but he says the changes are pretty minor.

"It might be a little bit different, but I don't think it's too huge an adjustment," said the affable 30-year-old, who's never been one to soak up attention. "It's not like I'm carrying the puck end-to-end or anything like that. I'm just trying to keep our offence going whenever I can, pinching in, trying to take a few more shots and make some good passes.

"But still concentrate on defence first."

How he plays in his comfort zone -- his own zone -- has improved, as well. He's a plus-10 since Jan. 1, and associate head coach Jim Playfair is proud of that improvement.

Playfair did talk to the veteran recently about chipping in offensively, as the next step in his development with the Flames.

"He takes great pride in being a shutdown defenceman, he takes pride in being a good first-pass defenceman. I just told him that we need more offensively. He has to enjoy the game at the offensive blueline," Playfair said.

"I just asked him to focus on that and concentrate on that a little bit more because he can do it.

"I think players are aware of elements of their game they can improve upon. That's what they want to do. That's what I think happened to Cory lately."

Growing more comfortable every day with a system very different from the one he learned with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sarich is bouncing back from what he calls a somewhat difficult first season with the Flames.

"Last year was a big transition for me. Not one of my best years," said Sarich, who finished with two goals, seven points and a plus-2 rating a year ago. "I'm just trying to do something different this year and trying to help a little bit more."

It's showing up on the scoresheet these days, although that's not how Sarich assesses his value.

"Ultimately, it's wins," said Sarich, who has a salary-cap hit of $3.6 million over each of the next three seasons.

"I have a pretty good of an idea of my game personally, when my game suffers a little bit, or when it doesn't. It's hard to put into words how I measure it, but all-around good defence is my first focus, for sure."

Consider the points a bonus.

Sarich definitely does.

"Some of my assists come from the far end of the rink, probably half of them in a season," Sarich said with a grin. "So I don't reflect too heavily on them."


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