CALGARY, AB -- For Flames defenceman Brendan Mikkelson, the adjustment from moving to Brent Sutter's squad from the Anaheim Ducks system has been a slow but steady process.
Claimed by the Flames on Oct. 19 after the Ducks placed him on waivers, Mikkelson has suited up for 15 contests and feels his play has improved game-by-game.
"I needed time," the 23 year-old told CalgaryFlames.com. "Early on, the coaches were really good with filling me in quickly and really trying to make the learning curve as quick as they can but obviously without a fair amount of games and practice time, it takes time."
The coaching staff have eased the transition to the Flames system by ensuring the Regina native has the right mindset every day when he comes to the rink.
"Since I've been here, early on, the coaches have stressed to me that I've really got to be making the best of my practice time. I've really got to be solid and hard during practices so that's kind of how I've been approaching - taking practices a little bit like games, as far as my preparation.
"Getting ready and making sure I'm doing things right out there and I'm doing things hard. That's a tendency that I have sometimes - I've got to make sure I'm always being hard on things. Whether it's being hard on making a check or being hard on making the pass, I think that's one thing I've really always have keep an eye on and keep focused on."
The coaches have also used the veteran-laden defence corps to aid Mikkelson. Since arriving in Calgary, Mikkelson has been primarly paired with Cory Sarich and Anton Babchuk. Given Mikkelson has just 82 NHL games until his belt, he appreciates being paired with experienced teammates.
"The steadiness they bring and the calmness they bring," was his response when asked what was the most valuable trait his partners have been able to bring to the table. "Things are going to happen out there. Even when we're working hard, mistakes are going to happen and bad breaks are going to happen so I think having the veteran guys around is good.
"The calming influence that they bring, having been through tough games, tough stretches, tough road trips. They've seen it all. That calming influence is contagious."
After a few bumps in the road in the early stages of his tenure as a Calgary Flame, Mikkelson is feeling much more confident in his abilities.
"I'm feeling comfortable within our system and my role here. I have to make sure I'm solid and hard every night. I took a bit of a step back against Pittsburgh but I thought I was a little bit better last night so I think it's just continuing to keep that intensity and make sure I'm making those solid plays every night."
That confidence will be useful with the impending return of Adam Pardy. The blueliner has been skating with the team over the past week and is hoping to be cleared for contact in the near future. When Pardy's able to hop back into the swing of things, eight defencemen will be battling for a spot in the lineup.
Earning a spot in the lineup night after night isn't going to be the easiest task.
"Especially with all the veteran guys here and how good of players they all are," he sighed. "Stevie was out last night but he's shown over his career how solid, how reliable of a guy he is. You've got a guy like Stevie pushing you and Pardy's going to be coming back. He's a big, solid two-way guy. There's going to be a lot of competition which is good.
"It's good within a room to have some competition for ice time, for spots. It always keeps you on your toes and when that happens, it's good for the hockey team because that intensity, that extra added motivation ... it's a kick in the butt. It's really good for everyone."