Hemsky a quiet camper

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:33 PM ET

Ales Hemsky doesn't look like himself out there.

The creative flair is missing, and so are the points, as the free-wheeling, swashbuckling straw that stirs the first line offence can't seem to get his dispy and his doodle on the same page.

Hemsky seems more rigid and deliberate this fall, like Picasso painting by numbers.

He admits as much, saying that was his plan all along.

"I don't think I'm focusing for the offence as much right now as trying to be in the right spots and not make any mistakes," he said, adding it's all part of trying to digest and understand the new style of play being coached under Pat Quinn.

"It's something you have to get in your head. So you practise, practise, practise, then you get it in your head and it will come automatically.

"But right now you're thinking about it a lot, you don't want to make any mistakes in the position game.

"I have to focus for that. I'm just trying to get the system and go from there. It's still training camp ... that's why you have training camp, to learn this stuff. There's been a lot of changes."

So he's treating the pre-season the way it's supposed to be treated -- as a learning period where he can focus on team concepts rather than personal statistics (one assist in three games).

"I'll be the same guy as I always was," he said. "I'm just trying to play the way they want. When the season starts, I'll focus on the offence."

It's important to keep your best offensive player happy, so the last thing they want is for Hemsky to feel handcuffed and frustrated.

He says he isn't, and understands where the strategy, based on defensive positioning, quick transitions and venturing into the hard areas offensively, is coming from.

"It's early, but Pat and those guys are smart coaches, they know what's going on, they've been in the league a long time. The offence will come from the defence."

Quinn knows how to let offensive players be offensive players. He had Pavel Bure in Vancouver and the Russian Rocket never felt chained to the tree.

He says Hemsky, like Bure, is smart enough and skilled enough to remain a dangerous weapon when everything is in place.

"He'll be expected to be a good player for us, one who provides some individual thrills as far as his offensive skill is concerned, and make a contribution to our team to make sure it stays out of our own net," Quinn said, adding he isn't at all worried about Hemsky's unproductive camp.

"We've been eight or nine days into this and we've changed a lot of things in how we want them to play and what their expectations are.

"There are some guys who, quite legitimately, are thinking 'Where am I going, what am I doing?' And while all that's happening, they don't play their normal game.

"I've had some awfully terrific offensive players. When they're not scoring, they go to places where they're free and open, but the game is not going on where they're going to.

"They have to come back and get in the game, that's what we're trying to do with our forwards right now.

"Get in the game and then we'll explode from there. (Hemsky) has those explosive abilities. We expect him to do fine."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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