CALGARY - For Krys Kolanos, hands have never been the issue.
Now that his hip is right, the Calgary-born forward is getting another shot on hockey’s biggest stage.
Kolanos, who spent all of last winter (and then some) recovering from micro-fracture surgery, spun an impressive audition with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat into a two-way contract offer from the Calgary Flames.
On Wednesday, the 30-year-old inked a two-year deal worth US$525,000 per season and was rewarded with an immediate call-up from the farm club.
Not a bad signing bonus.
“I always felt like I had unfinished business at this level,” Kolanos said. “Going into the surgery, the doctor made it clear it was going to be a very long process, and it’s been about 22 months. I actually missed half of the season before, too, so it was a long process, but he said if you can stay disciplined and work hard and persevere through this, your hip will be better than it ever was.
“And I was able to do that. I had a lot of faith, and inside me was also a burning desire because I love the game so much and I still knew I had something to contribute.
“Now, I feel healthier than I ever have and ready to make a difference and an impact.”
Starting with Friday’s showdown against the Chicago Blackhawks, he’ll have an opportunity to do exactly that.
Although he hasn’t skated in an NHL contest since March 31, 2009, Kolanos already has 136 big-league appearances — plus 21 goals and 20 assists — on his resume.
Thanks to his offensive abilities, he was selected 19th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, not long after the likes of Dany Heatley, Marian Gaborik and Scott Hartnell heard their names called.
Although Kolanos has apparently been solid in both ends, he undoubtedly made his case for a promotion with 18 tallies and 22 helpers in 34 games with the Heat so far this season.
“He’s getting an opportunity now — again — to prove that he can play in the National Hockey League, so there’s incentive there for him to come in here and play well, and that’s what we want from him,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter of the AHL all-star.
“I do know, from the games I’ve seen in Abby, he’s very skilled. He can shoot the puck. He can score. And we’re going to need all of those.”
Unlike most minor-league callups, Kolanos will likely score a major role right away.
Michael Cammalleri, Olli Jokinen, Blair Jones and Alex Tanguay were all wearing red uniforms during Wednesday’s practice session at the Saddledome, indicating they’ll be split among the top two lines for Friday’s game.
Jarome Iginla, who didn’t skate, is also certain of a spot on a scoring unit, while Kolanos could fill in the final blank if Lee Stempniak’s lower-body injury is serious.
That’d be a plum assignment, but Sutter could stick Kolanos on a line with Harvey the Hound and a hot-dog vendor and you get the feeling it wouldn’t spoil the homecoming for the former Calgary Buffaloes star.
“It couldn’t be more special to me,” Kolanos said. “I grew up watching and going to Flames games ever since I was a little guy. We’ve had season-tickets ever since I was born, so I’ve gone to so many games and watched them win a Cup when I was eight years old.
“It’s always been a part of me. Now that I have this opportunity, it just feels so right.”
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson