Winger better in both zones

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET


 The blocked shot, everybody saw.

 Missed in the excitement of Shean Donovan's insurance goal Saturday night was the second great play Flames forward Oleg Saprykin made in the same flurry of action.

 A play that proves how far the enigmatic left-winger has come as an NHL player.

 Think back to Donovan's late second-period tally in Calgary's 3-0 win.

 First, there was Saprykin sprawling out to block Pavel Kubina's point shot.

 Saprykin, who took the shot right on the laces, returned to his feet and back to his defensive posture guarding the point.

 That's when he spotted Fredrik Modin driving to the net and readying for a perfect pass from Vincent Lecavalier.

 Saprykin sprung into action, tied up Modin's stick to take away the scoring chance and Lecavalier's pass was gobbled up by Donovan, who zoomed down the ice and scored to make it a 2-0 game.

 A day later, Saprykin -- who left the 'Dome virtually as unnoticed as the second half to his remarkable shift -- shrugged off what he'd done.

 "It's just helping the team to win," he said.

 "Whatever it takes to win, that's what you do. You have to do whatever you can to help everyone on the ice. Everybody else on the team is doing the same."

 Well enough for the 23-year-old to join in.

 Face it, over the past couple of years, the only way Saprykin got noticed was when he scored a goal, made a huge defensive miscue or fell victim to a bone-crushing check.

 Midway through this season, Flames GM-head coach Darryl Sutter shook his head and softly referred to the first-round draftee from 1999 as, "a very frustrating young man."

 Saturday night, Saprykin displayed the kind of intensity Sutter has been trying to extrapolate from his young charge.

 Make no mistakes, there's a reason he was given the green hard hat for unsung hero.

 "He's blossoming into a great pro player," said Chris Clark.

 "He's learned there's more to the game than just offence and he has the ability to be a great defensive player.

 "He knows now a defensive play can turn into a great offensive chance."


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