Michalek thriving with Sens

Ottawa Senators Milan Michalek tries to score on Buffalo Sabre Jhonas Enroth in NHL hockey action...

Ottawa Senators Milan Michalek tries to score on Buffalo Sabre Jhonas Enroth in NHL hockey action at Scotiabank Place November 5, 2011. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:50 PM ET

Milan Michalek has always been considered a talented player.

Staying healthy, however, has at times proven to be a challenge for him.

The Ottawa Senators winger had knee issues that limited his effectiveness in the nations capital.

Yet, this year Michalek is healthy, happy and scoring goals at an impressive rate.

I just feel good, Im healthy, Ive been playing with a lot of confidence and am happy to having got off to a good start, Michalek said. I hope things can continue like that. I know its a long season and there are going to be some ups and downs.

Ive had problems with my knees the last two years, but this year I was healthy and I was able to do a lot more this summer. Thats probably helped me out a lot as well. Im glad Im able to stay healthy right now.

Heading into Thursdays game against the Edmonton Oilers, Michalek had 11 goals and five assists in 19 games. Only Phil Kessel and James Neal have scored more in the league this season.

Ive always felt Milan was a real good player, ever since I saw him in San Jose, said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. I knew he could have a big impact on the league if he could stay healthy. At this point in time, hes a really quality NHL winger. The fact that hes healthy and goes to the net hard, hes getting rewarded.

Acquired two years ago in the trade that sent Dany Heatley to the San Jose Sharks, Michalek had 18 goals all of last season for the Senators. His most productive campaign came in his second year with the Sharks, scoring 26 goals and adding 40 assists.

Currently, hes thriving under the tutelage of MacLean, who took over the head coaching duties this season.

I think were playing a much more up-tempo game, which suits me well, Michalek said. Weve learned the type of system that he wants us to play and its getting better and better every game.

Originally selected by the Sharks sixth overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Czech Republic native spent four seasons in California before being sent to Ottawa.

Hes enjoying his time with the Senators and appreciating the easier travel schedule.

The travel is much, much better, Michalek said. Everybody talks about it, but when you live it, you realize how much different it is. There are not too many long trips and if you go away for a game, youre usually back home by midnight. Its a huge difference.

Its easier on you, easier to recover, and its nice to get to sleep in your own bed nearly every night.

This season, Michalek has taken more of a leadership role with the Senators. The team was not expected to be competitive this season, but are proving many of their critics wrong.

We think we have the type of players that can go out and win every game and battle for a playoff spot, Michalek said. We have a lot of young players here, so I think its going to be good going forward as well.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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