For me, it's been a tough year in a lot of ways but now I've got my confidence back and I feel like I've been playing pretty good lately. I think the points are just bonuses. - Sven Baertschi
CALGARY, AB -- Sven Baertschi's 2013-14 tenure with the Abbotsford Heat started slowly.
The winger was held to just four points in his 16 games with the Calgary Flames AHL affiliate, scoring two goals and two helpers in that span. The effort was there; he was throwing a lot of shots on net and he was pushing hard to generate offence but nothing seemed to click for the 21-year-old.
Then, in February, things started to change. The points started to pile up with regularity and it appeared that he had the puck on his stick more often. He amassed six points in the first 10 games of February and then, at the end of the month, he pushed his game to another level.
Since his two-point outing against Grand Rapids on Feb. 28, Baertschi has amassed 18 points in 12 games. In a pair of games against the Rockford IceHogs this past weekend, the Swiss winger led the Heat offensively with seven points and was named the AHL's Player of the Week for his efforts.
When asked about Baertschi's offensive burst, Heat bench boss Troy G. Ward pointed to a adjustment in lines as one of the reasons for the change in his young charge's production.
"Just prior to this last little hot streak, I didn't think he was getting the puck at the right places," Ward explained. "I moved him with Corban Knight, who is right-hander who can get Sven the puck on the left side.
"He's just had more time and space. He's felt a little bit more comfortable, maybe, on zone entry. When you're a smaller guy and you're agile and you're quick, you want to try to get in the offensive zone unscathed. You don't want to be banged up before you get in there. It's one thing to battle down low but your zone entry time, you want to be able to play fast. He's been able to do that with Corban. Corban's a terrific passer and I think that's helped him the most to be honest with you."
While adjustments are necessary when working with new linemates, Baertschi didn't alter his game radically. He stuck with his tried-and-true methods, day-in and day-out, while he became acclimatized to his new centreman's habits.
"You don't want to change your game. I was successful because of the way I play. It worked before and it will always work for me," he said after Saturday's 5-3 win over the Rockford IceHogs.
"For me, it's been a tough year in a lot of ways but now I've got my confidence back and I feel like I've been playing pretty good lately. I think the points are just bonuses."
Ward has placed Tim Miller, who was acquired by the Heat on Mar. 12 from the San Antonio Rampage, with Knight and Baertschi in recent games. The trio's respective styles blend extremely well and that chemistry has paid dividends for the club.
"It also helps having Knighter on my line, who understands the game really well, and Millsy, who has been great on the forecheck and always gets the puck," Baertschi said of his rejuvenated offence. "He creates a lot of space for us. It's been fun playing with him."
Baertschi's next challenge will be helping his club clinch a playoff berth this weekend. The team plays their final two regular season home games on Mar. 11 and 13, both against the Oklahoma City Barons.
The Heat are currently fifth in the Western Conference with a 39-25-5-2 record and 85 points on the year. The Rochester Americans sit in the final playoff spot with 76 points through 70 games.