Getting better with age

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Some would say Rod Brind'Amour has discovered the fountain of youth.

The 36-year-old Carolina Hurricanes centre is off to a blazing start, just months removed from his first Stanley Cup-winning season -- which was his best statistically in nearly a decade.

Heading into last night's tilt against the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome, Brind'Amour led the 'Canes with 36 points in 28 games, good enough for third in the NHL.

On pace to break the 100-point plateau for the first time in his 17th season, the Ottawa product passes kudos to his coach and linemates.

Bench boss Peter Laviolette is piling the minutes on his veteran leader to the tune of 23:34 per game -- more than any other Hurricane.

Brind'Amour appreciates the workload.

"Last year and this year, it's just opportunity," said Brind'Amour yesterday after the morning skate. "Lavi's giving me more opportunity than I ever had."

Centring wingers like Ray Whitney and Justin Williams, who rank second and third on the team with 30 and 27 points, respectively, helps, too.

"The key factor is I'm playing with great players," said Brind'Amour. "I've never played with two all-star wingers, ever. Now, the last two years, I've always had two great linemates.

"I think Ray Whitney right now is having an exceptional year. Very under-the-radar kind of player. To me, I've played with a lot of guys, he's one of the best playmakers in the game. Smart.

"Justin Williams is probably one of the best two-way players I've ever seen. He's not just great offensively, he's one of the best defensive players in the game.

"You add those guys to anybody, you're going to have a good year."

Of course, when you mention the name Rod Brind'Amour, his nickname -- 'Rod the Bod'-- seems to follow.

Asked what his secret is, Laviolette refers to the great shape Brind'Amour's in.

"He's in phenomenal shape," said the coach. "It's in him. It's in his character, his intensity ... all those reasons."

Blueliner Glen Wesley credits his captain's fitness but also his determination.

"I think he's a great leader," said Wesley.

"He leads by example out there."


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