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Bennett building confidence off strong play

The 20-year-old is looking to build off a stellar game on Friday

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson /

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- In the opening 23 games of the season, Sam Bennett's offence has come in waves.

He started off the year without a point in the first five games but then put together a four-game point streak which saw him score three goals and register six points. 

After that?

Nine games without a goal. Nine games with just one point.

He had a goal and an assist in the Flames' 3-2 setback to the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 18 and then hit another short dry spell, going through three skates without a point.

On Friday, he got back on the scoresheet in a big way, scoring the Flames' opening goal and setting up the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden.

"His offensive game, he won some battles. He made a really nice play - I thought it was a great play to [Chiasson] on that goal. And a nice shot. It was a real good game," head coach Glen Gulutzan noted. "It's good for these young guys to get a little confidence too."

Now, looking forward, he knows he has to build off that mettle, that self-assurance he gained from his stellar night in Boston and develop more consistency when to comes to his offensive production.

"I've struggled a bit offensively. It really comes down to confidence - it's a huge thing in this game. You build off of it, as a player and as a group," Bennett said. "It goes a long way."

Video: CGY@BOS: Bennett converts for slick breakaway goal

Some of that confidence can be derived from playing on the wing - a maneuver Gulutzan made earlier this month in a bid to open up Bennett's game a bit more.

The move, even on a short-term basis, was to free up Bennett from the responsibilities heaped upon NHL pivots. He has more freedom flanking a veteran centreman like Matt Stajan - his current linemate, along with right winger Alex Chiasson - than he does skating at centre ice.

"It's different," he explained. "You have different responsibilities down low. You're almost able to get more opportunities offensively. I think I've transitioned pretty well. I'm enjoying it.

"I like both, playing the wing and centre ... it really comes down to where the coaches want me to play [long-term]. I feel just as comfortable in both positions."

While offence is certainly a large part of his game - Bennett torched the Ontario Hockey League with 65 goals and 155 points in 128 regular season games with the Kingston Frontenacs - Gulutzan has been impressed with Bennett's dedication to rounding out his two-way game - particularly his eagerness to gain a better grasp on the penalty kill.

Gulutzan and assistant coach Paul Jerrard have integrated Bennett into their special teams' structures and getting him in a penalty killing role has benefitted Bennett's even-strength play.

"One of the things we're trying to do with these young players is the penalty kill," Gulutzan said. "They can learn a lot of good habits from having to go out there and just focus on defence, [that] is really what it is."

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