Grade-a Chuck

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:17 PM ET


 When drafted in the first round, Chuck Kobasew's hands were his biggest selling point.

 They were hands that had the ability to put the puck in the net.

 Heading into the Stanley Cup final, though, it's not Kobasew's hands that tell the biggest tale of his contribution to the Calgary Flames fortunes. No, it's his forearms.

 Kobasew's arms are littered with welts and scabs, battle wounds from the long haul that has been the NHL playoffs.

 "No big deal," said the rookie right-winger.

 "It's all part of it."

 Kobasew doesn't have a goal in this year's Stanley Cup chase, which resumes tonight when the Flames meet the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 And he has just one assist in 19 games.

 Still, that doesn't mean he has failed to contribute.

 Far from it, said teammate Dave Lowry.

 "Chuck's reinvented his game," stated the veteran with more than 1,000 games under his belt. "He's a smart kid. He came into the league with expectations to be a goal-scorer but what a lot of young guys don't realize is it's a tough league to score goals.

 "We talked about it and the big thing was for him to become an all-around player, not just an offensive guy.

 "If that's all you're known as and don't put up the numbers, then what? Then where do you go?

 "He's figured it out and you have to give him credit because he's been willing to change his game."

 There's no doubt in the minds of Flames' brass Kobasew will eventually be a goal-scorer. For now, the 22-year-old, drafted 14th overall in 2001, has been skating on the fourth line, paying his dues, learning the ropes and providing energy.

 "Everybody expects or thinks goals, goals, goals and offensive capabilities but whatever role I'm given, I'm willing to contribute that way," Kobasew said. "Being physical, being hard on the puck and competing every shift. When you do that, goals will come."

 Kobasew certainly has been physical.

 Hardly a big guy with his 6-ft., 196-lb. body, Kobasew showed in the Western Conference final-clinching game he could dish out his share.

 He and linemates Lowry and Chris Clark fed the San Jose defencemen a steady stream of hits.

 "The hardest thing for a kid to realize is that even when you don't score, you can contribute," said Martin Gelinas, who -- like Kobasew -- reached the Cup final as a rookie.

 "Sometimes a big check or a great play on the backcheck can have the same impact as a goal or hit.

 "The kids on the team have been, as we say, bringing the juice. When I see Chuck or Oleg (Saprykin) going all out and diving to make a play, I love it."

 That feisty side of Kobasew comes as a surprise to many. It shouldn't, though. In his lone year of junior with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets, Kobasew racked up 114 penalty minutes to go with 41 goals in 55 games.

 "Did he really? I wouldn't have guessed that," Clark said. "He's such a good goal-scorer, you probably wouldn't expect that side of him. Now, noticing him in the playoffs, he's brought that side of his game.

 "He'll hit anybody, won't back down from anybody. It's something you probably wouldn't have seen from him a couple of years ago."

 Not really true, Kobasew insists.

 "I take pride in getting involved out there," he said. "I've always been very competitive and feisty but I've learned a lot about that this season. The coaching staff has told me you can contribute in other ways."

 That's the right attitude, said Gelinas.

 "They could be remembered as kids that were the difference in the final," the vet explained.

 "They can be the difference in the final."

 Maybe even with a goal or two to go with those scars.


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