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Kulak turning heads in limited action this season

Brett Kulak has become a reliable piece of the Flames blueline

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- The sample size, admittedly, is somewhat small. The upside, we're learning, is somewhat larger.

"He's just … executed,'' replied coach Glen Gulutzan, when asked about the growing influence of a 22-year-old on the Calgary Flames' hopes of pulling out of their current funk.

"We're leaning on lots of guys in there. It's not warm and fuzzy in our locker room.

"He's one of those guys."

When picking through the debris field for positives to come out of this frustrating string of results, Kulak's rise would top the short list.

"There's a lot of want and care in our room,'' continued Gulutzan. "No one's happy with the way things are going right now. But …

"Going back to Brett, he's executed.

"He's young. He's desperate. But he's executed. He's been put in tough situations against tough teams and he's executed.

"That's what we need from everyone."

Through this difficult stretch, as the Flames try to navigate their way to winning on a consistent basis, Brett Kulak has proven to be a model of efficiency, of economy, of playing within his means.

While many household names, famous faces hereabouts find themselves on the wrong side of the plus-minus equator, Kulak, with only 16 NHL games on his resume to date, has shone: A plus-7 in seven starts (second on the team to Deryk Engelland's plus-9).

During Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, the 105th pick in the 2012 entry draft out of the WHL Vancouver Giants program clocked in at over 20 minutes of ice time, finished a plus-2 and flashed some offensive options, as well.

His searching skim pass through a set of skates for Johnny Gaudreau to nick past Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen and briefly square matters at 2-2 was particularly nifty.

"When I have played, so far I've played the way I want to,'' adjudged Kulak. "I've kept the game simple. Keep pucks moving ahead, get shots through from the point.

"Each player has a part to play, a different role. For me it's just playing consistent minutes. I'm not sent out there to score goals. I'm expected to be responsible in my own zone, move the puck.

"I think it's been going okay so far.

"But when things are going the way they are for us as a group, it's hard for anyone to feel too good themselves. About anything, really."

Video: DAL@CGY: Gaudreau guides home loose puck in crease

Others can feel good for him, though.

"He's been impressive. Very impressive,'' praises the gold standard for defensemen in this part of the world, skipper Mark Giordano.

"He's played a solid game, both ends of the puck. And he makes good little plays to break out of our zone.

"For defencemen especially those years developing, playing minor-league games in the AHL, helps. They teach you not to be over-aggressive and run around.

"Kulie's assets are his skating so he can get out of trouble but he's also smart with the puck. And he can make plays to the net, like you saw (Thursday) night, where he can help our forwards generate cause he finds guys open.

"Kulie just plays his game. Sounds easy but it's not. Just a smart player. And he's been playing big minutes for us. (Thursday) he was matched up against top players all night and really came through."

Tough times, it's often said, provide the best gauges into character.

 If so, then Brett Kulak is proving he more than belongs.

"When young guys mature -- and as I've told you before, this is a real focused kid -- they realize what they have to do,'' says Gulutzan of the way forward. "He's mature enough and every day he knows he's got to be sharp and good.

"Things aren't getting done right now. We've got to find somebody to do them.

"And if that means playing younger guys over older guys, then that's what we're gonna do."

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