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 wasnt 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, wholl 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 wont 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.

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

Its a fun game to come into because its such a big game, he said.

Suitcase Chris

Its 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 nights 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, its 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. Its 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 couldnt 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, hes enjoying the ride of going from a Panthers team going nowhere to a Canucks squad atop the league standings and a Stanley Cup favourite.

Its 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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