SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' Bouma back to old tricks

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

CALGARY -- Lance Bouma learned a valuable lesson from his first NHL stint: Be yourself.

The Calgary Flames forward returned to the big club from the minors for Saturday ’s clash with the Vancouver Canucks with a more clear sense of his ability as a player.

It was a lesson gained not so much while with the Flames for a five-game stint in early February, but when he returned to the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL.

“At first, I was trying to do too much offensively and

I wasn’t playing my game,” said the first-year pro.

“I had to realize my game is playing hard and hitting, and the last two games did that.”

Bouma, who’ll turn 21 later this month, had a solid first NHL stint with one assist in five outings in a fourth-line role.

The third-round pick in 2008 won’t likely be a scorer at the NHL level, either, but the product of Provost, Alta., felt much more comfortable with the Flames compared to last month.

It’s a good thing, because a clash with the first-place Canucks is a pressure-packed situation.

“It’s a fun game to come into because it’s such a big game,” he said.

Suitcase Chris

It’s been a tough few seasons for Christopher Higgins.

The trade-deadline swap which brought him to the Vancouver Canucks made it five teams in three seasons.

All three years have been beset with scoring troubles — 31 goals in 173 games heading into Saturday night’s clash with the Flames — and a slew of injuries, which have sidelined him for 57 games.

Still, he keeps being wanted by teams. The Canucks acquired Higgins for a third-round draft choice and prospect Evan Oberg.

Sure, it’s not a huge return for a three-time 20-goal scorer, but more than the Flames were willing to part with — and you can bet they were interested in bringing him back to the Saddledome.

“I think I can bring more to the table than just points. I try to be a player a coach can rely on in a bunch of different situations,” Higgins said.

“I definitely struggled in New York, but I thought

I played pretty strong here in Calgary for the games I played. It’s unfortunate I got hurt, but I loved playing here.

“It feels good to be wanted.”

Higgins was acquired from the Rangers with Ales Kotalik in the ill-fated trade that sent Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to Broadway.

His time with Calgary was marked by good effort but little production — two goals and three points in 12 appearances — before an ankle injury ended his season.

The Flames were keenly interested in keeping him, but couldn’t match the one-year, US$1.6-million contract he received from Florida.

Higgins could be a UFA this summer, and the Flames may chase him again, but for now, he’s enjoying the ride of going from a Panthers team going nowhere to a Canucks squad atop the league standings and a Stanley Cup favourite.

“It’s a hard working, very talented team. To get traded to a team like this is where you want to go,” he said.

“It took me a couple hours to pack.”


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