Dimitrakos alongside big names

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:06 PM ET


 SAN JOSE -- Any hockey fan who chose Nicholas Dimitrakos in his playoff pool is looking like a genius these days.

 And an Einstein if he pronounced his name properly in doing so.

 "Yeah, it's a tough one and a lot of people beat it up," said the San Jose Sharks forward with a shrug. "They just have to call me Niko, that's pretty easy."

 Any hack in the print media can get that right. One thing they can say about the rookie right winger is he's a perfect example of what develops in the playoffs.

 Every team that advances beyond a couple of rounds has an unheralded player who becomes something of an offensive factor.

 Heading into last night's Western Conference final meeting with the Flames, Dimitrakos was behind only Vincent Damphousse, Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo when it came to Sharks point production -- with one goal and eight assists.

 Of course, it doesn't hurt the 24-year-old from suburban Boston is skating on the top line with Marleau and Damphousse and manning the point on the powerplay.

 The 5-ft. 10-in., 205-lb. product of the NCAA system actually started the season on that line but lost his spot. However, with Marco Sturm out for the season due to an ankle injury, he was returned to the post.

 "I've had a great experience learning to play both sides of the game, on the fourth line and on the first line," Dimitrakos said. "It's pretty good. One's a future Hall-of-Famer and the other's on his way. It's great playing with those guys, they're very skilled and know how to move the puck."

 Not that Dimitrakos doesn't have those traits.

 A fifth-round draft pick in '99 out of the University of Maine, Dimitrakos racked up 13 points in 21 NHL games last season.

 In 68 regular-season tilts this season, he netted nine goals and 24 points.

 "Skill-wise, I feel I can play with those (top-line) guys," he said. "All that you need then is confidence. If you have that, you'll play well and good things will happen. That's what's happening right now for me. I'm not thinking about too much, just believing in myself."

 And believing he's capable of winning, especially based on his past experiences.

 Dimitrakos won an NCAA crown in his freshman year, lost in the semifinal as a sophomore, went to the quarter-finals as a junior and then fell in OT in the final as a senior -- losing to the Minnesota squad led by Flames defenceman Jordan Leopold.

 However, Dimitrakos didn't want to put too much stock into those achievements with his team one series win away from the Cup finals.

 "It does help because I played in front of 18,000 or 19,000 fans as a young kid," he said.

 "It was a good experience to see what a crowd's like and the big games of a playoff atmosphere.

 "I feel very comfortable when I get out there now."


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