Juice hungry for Dome tilt

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Returning players always have old haunts they like to visit.

Kristian Huselius said his goal when coming back to Calgary was to avoid one particular hangout.

"Crave Cupcakes," he said with a grin. "I'm not going to go there, I'll have five or six and that won't be good for (tonight).

"I can't go. I don't want to be heavy in my legs."

Maybe after Huselius and his Columbus Blue Jackets face the Flames tonight, he'll be able to enjoy a few of his favourites.

"It doesn't matter which one you pick," Huselius said, almost salivating at the thought. "Coconut is great, vanilla is great, strawberry is unbelievable."

However, for the lanky Swede, his departure from the Flames was anything but sweet. The talented and creative left-winger essentially spent the final two months of last season in coach Mike Keenan's dog house -- he refused to talk about his rocky relationship with the Flames coach yesterday -- so it was no shocker the free agent signed elsewhere this summer.

"I knew where it was going. It's just the way it is," Huselius said. "With the salary cap, you know when (other) players sign, the situation you're in.

"I wasn't that sure I wanted to stay, either. When it's you're first time as an UFA, it's a decision you have to make. It makes it easier if you don't have a chance to stay."

He inked a four-year, US$19-million deal with the Blue Jackets, and, curiously, should finally face his old team tonight.

He missed the first meeting of the season after being hit by a puck in the ankle. The last time they were to face off, he was again knocked out of action because one of his wrists was cut by a skate the night before during a game in Edmonton.

When the wacky turn of events was mentioned, teammate R.J. Umberger piped up "the Calgary flu."

"Yeah, the Calgary flu," Huselius said. "The guys were on me."

Tonight, he expects to be in the lineup, but has no idea how he'll be received by the Dome faithful.

"I don't think it's going to be anything special," he said of the reaction he expects from the fans.

You mean it won't be like what Mats Sundin experienced in Toronto Saturday?

"I hope not," Huselius said with a laugh.

"It's exciting to be back. I had a really good time here, enjoyed playing here and had a lot of fun. I played with some really great players, and do in Columbus as well. It took my career to another level, so it was a great experience here.

"The first game is always the one you're kinda nervous about and excited to be back. After that, it's just back to basics, another team. It'll be fun and I'll be a little nervous. It's a great crowd here, fun to play in front of it."

He does expect his former teammates to give him a little extra attention, especially Robyn Regehr who loves when players are willing to come into his area, nicknamed the Tunnel of Death.

"I've seen it before and know you've got to be aware of it," Huselius said.

"Robyn is a great defenceman and I'm probably going to play against him a lot. It'll be a challenge, for sure."

While expectations are high on Huselius, he hasn't put up the big numbers yet.

The 18 goals and 43 points in 56 games he's netted so far is about on par with last season, but not on pace with his 2007-08 season -- 34 goals and 77 points -- which is surprising since he's playing alongside a pure goal scorer in Columbus in Rick Nash.

Huselius admitted thinking the chemistry would come easier, but pointed out it's taken him time to find a rhythm with Nash.

"He's a guy that wants the puck and drives to the net. Jarome (Iginla) finds those seams and wants those one-timers," Huselius explained.

"It's different and takes time."


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