His commitment to helping the young players, the commitment to playing the game the right way, that’s what we need. That’s what’s making the difference on this team. - Bob Hartley
GLENDALE, AZ -- As difficult as Jiri Hudler can be to catch in the locker room, he’s impossible to miss on the ice.
The elusive, soft-spoken forward has made noise in a big way of late, scoring goals in four straight games and amassing six over his past six games to pace all Calgary Flames shooters with 11 goals and all forwards with 23 points.
But while the goals stand out, other areas might not be so easy to see.
“Jiri’s getting rewarded but if you look at his game closely, that’s the best that we’ve seen of Jiri Hudler, not only offensively but in the three zones,” coach Bob Hartley said. “His commitment to helping the young players, the commitment to playing the game the right way, that’s what we need. That’s what’s making the difference on this team. With all the young players, the veterans are leading by example and are getting rewarded.”
It’s impossible to ignore the skill, though.
Four goals and six points on Calgary’s three-game road trip, helping bring four of a possible six points back to Calgary, will attest to that.
Step one game back to Calgary’s 5-4 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Saddledome a week ago and the 30-year-old has five goals and eight points in his last 12 periods.
Three of those come by way of a goal and two assists in Calgary’s 3-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday to close out the Pacific Division swing.
Hudler’s not sure he’s ever been so hot. Not that he’s one to check.
“I don’t know. I didn’t check,” he put briefly and bluntly.
While he isn’t typically longwinded, those around him haven’t been shy to voice what Hudler’s contribution has meant to the upstart Flames.
Hartley, for example, wasn’t shy to preach about the leadership role Hudler has taken on.
“He’s basically always with Johnny [Gaudreau],” Hartley said. “He takes care of Johnny, takes care of the other guys. It’s a nice setup because Mark Giordano’s our captain. He does his share. Curtis Glencross, Kris Russell, [Dennis Wideman], we have so many good veterans that are leading by example also. I think it’s contagious throughout the entire team. It’s fun.”
Mark Giordano, for example, focused on the lighter side of things.
“He’s hilarious,” the captain said. “He’s a fun guy to be around and a good friend for all of us. I think he’s taken a leadership role to the next level this year.”
Karri Ramo, for example, explained how Hudler sets the standard on the ice.
“You see Hudler playing and he’s the first guy in the offensive zone scoring goals but he’s the first guy backchecking and probably the best backchecker on our team,” Ramo said. “He’s leading there and everyone else has to do the same.”
Despite the praise heaped upon Hudler, the nine-year National Hockey League veteran downplayed his role in not only helping contribute to wins, but the development of Calgary’s next wave.
After all, that’s the style of the slick, quiet winger.
“I don’t know about that,” Hudler started. “You’re just trying to do the right thing, work hard and I think even the young guys, they’re grown men. They make it to this level, they must do something right. It’s fun to be around them.”