Freddie finds his way

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Fredrik Sjostrom had to improve his defensive game to be an NHLer.

Sure, the Flames forward had fantastic offensive touch while skating for the WHL's Hitmen and scored all kinds of highlight-reel goals, but when it was time to make the jump, it was paramount the current Flame be secure on the defensive side the puck.

His coach would also like to see some of that creativity return. Last night, he got it.

Sjostrom, who signed a two-year, US$1.5-million contract with the Flames, delivered on that end last night, getting an assist early on and then scoring a beauty in the third period to secure a 6-3 win for the Flames.

"He's got to be very responsible defensively, and he's learned that at the NHL level because that was the situation he was put into," Brent Sutter said.

"He can provide offence. He's got a good shot, he's got to use it.

"He's got to want to take pucks to the net.

"That's the type of player he is, just be an assertive guy and want to get into the spaces that are tough areas and use his skills, then he will be able to create offence."

Sutter compared Sjostrom to Curtis Glencross, a fast-skating player who has started to tap into his offensive abilities.

Sjostrom is not upset about his production, or lackthereof, but admits he can do more.

"You want to score goals and contribute, but it's not all about scoring. As long as we're playing good and winning, I'm fine with that," he said.

"Overall, I'm pretty happy with my play, but I have to get better.

"I have to shoot the puck a lot more. That might be one of the reasons I haven't scored, haven't put enough rubber on the net. That's one thing I have to do."

Sjostrom has been a solid addition to the Flames, who signed him after the New York Rangers failed to give him a qualifying offer and made him an unrestricted free agent.

He went into last night's game with a plus-3 rating, and has been a solid performer, starting the season in a fourth-line role and lately on a line with Olli Jokinen and Eric Nystrom.

"I'm sure he wants to put some points up, but with the way he plays, he's still an effective player whether he's on the scoresheet or not," Nystrom said. "He's good defensively, great on the PK, good at cycling, really strong on the forecheck.

"Playing with him is easy. The points will come."

Skating alongside Jokinen should help, even if Swedes (which Sjostrom is) and Finns (Jokinen) traditionally are heated rivals.

"Olli is a great guy. One of the most skilled players I've played with," Sjostrom said. "It's the Scandinavian line (Nystrom has Swedish roots). I think we had some moments the last couple games, just didn't get the puck in."

Even without scoring goals, Sjostrom has played well enough you have to wonder why the Rangers let him go.

"That is not a question for me to answer," Sjostrom said. "I'm not sure. Who knows with today's system, the cap and all that. I don't know. I liked it there and had a good time, but now I don't feel too bad that happened."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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