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Re-energized & ready to go

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- If there is one way to describe Niklas Hagman's season, it would be a rollercoaster ride.

The Espoo, Finland native has had some incredible highs over the his 59 games this year but it hasn't been all smooth sailing. Some of the bumps in the road have been career-lows for the winger.

The 2010-11 season didn't start off badly for the 31 year-old. In fact, the first couple of months made it seem as if Hagman would be knocking on the 20 goal door sooner than later.

Early on, it wasn't unusual for Hagman's minutes to hover around the 18:00 mark. While head coach Brent Sutter shifted lines to try and find a successful formula, he was almost a permanent fixture on the second line.

His offensive production was finding some much-needed consistency as well. He notched seven goals and 12 points in the first 25 games of the campaign and when he wasn't putting up numbers, he was assisting his team with solid forechecking, neutral zone play and defensive coverage.

"He started off really well," his linemate Mikael Backlund told"He's a really skilled guy so we all know he can play that way."

Then December came.

Over his next 25 outings, Hagman managed just two goals. His ice time began to decrease. While he had some sparks, like his three-point game against his former club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hagman looked less and less engaged as time went on. He found himself shuffled between the third and fourth lines, his game plagued with inconsistency.

That decline continued through the first two months of the year and on Feb. 21, the three-time 20 goal scorer was placed on waivers for the first time in his career.

The winger went unclaimed, admitting it bruised his pride to have 29 other clubs ignore his availability.

"Obviously it's part of hockey and it's not a nice part, but it's gone now," he said after clearing waivers on Tuesday. "I'm still here. My goal is to help the team win, play as well as I can and hopefully do a little better."

After Tuesday's morning skate, his teammates and coaching staff expressed their support for him.

"Hags and I had a long conversation (Tuesday) morning," said Sutter. "I think he understands what took place and why. Obviously we need Hags to be a good player for us and he will be. On a selfish note, I'm glad he's still with us because he can certainly help out the hockey team."

It's one thing to claim to know you need to improve and it's another to act upon that statement. Hagman has chosen to act. Over this past two games, his play has reverted back to that of his first 25 games and his confidence appears to have leaped up to the level it needs to be.

That self-assurance was on display on Friday night against the San Jose Sharks when Hagman scored his 10th of the season with highlight reel-worthy moves.

Taking a back pass from Brendan Morrison at the Sharks blueline, Hagman absolutely undressed Niclas Wallin before roofing a top corner. His slick hands earned him extremely loud roars of approval from the sold out crowd in the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"He's been really good the last couple of games," Backlund said. "He was really good last night. He had that really nice goal. Such sick moves. Unbelievable."

Hagman acknowledged his improved play after Friday's 4-3 SO loss to the Sharks.

"I haven't been scoring that many goals lately and it's one way on the scoresheet you know you've helped the team. The last two games I've felt pretty good, working hard to help the team.

"I cannot lie, it felt pretty good to score."

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