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Taking stock

by John McGourty

Mike Keenan had some interesting comments about several players who are making a positive difference for the Flames.
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Mike Keenan had some interesting comments about several players who are making a positive difference for Calgary this season.

* Adrian Aucoin has come back to life for Keenan after several injury-plagued seasons. Aucoin led the League in average ice time twice with the New York Islanders, but struggled in two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and last season with the Flames. Now, he's an ice-time leader, has eight goals, three of them game winners, and 30 points.

"I had some history with Adrian in Vancouver," Keenan said. "He scored 20 goals that season. Adrian was a good player when I had him before and he can recapture the strengths in his game. He knows the game well and he's a bright individual. Adrian had developed some habits that had to be improved upon. We've seen him recapture his good habits. He's getting to play more now."

* Keenan was sometimes critical of Kristian Huselius when he coached him with the Florida Panthers and some hockey fans thought Huselius would be the first player traded away after the coach's arrival. The exact opposite has happened. Huselius has thrived and Keenan counts himself a fan.

"Kristian is in a different place in his life than he was when he played in South Florida," Keenan said. "He's married now with two children. I think he's also stronger than when he played in Florida. There's no question he's more mature and a better player."

*Alex Tanguay has 14 goals and 35 assists for 48 points, on pace for 16 goals and 60 points, well below his average of 25 goals and 79 points over the past three seasons. While his plus-12 rating is good, it's well below the three seasons of plus-30 or more he posted in Colorado. Keenan, though, doesn't seem as disappointed as he might be.

"Alex has had a different role this season," Keenan said. "We put him in different roles. He has played on the top line, on the power play and we've asked him to be a good penalty killer. We've even put him on the checking line. He knows the game well and with his skill set, he can do either offensive or defensive roles and contribute. We're giving him assignments on both sides of the ledger, offensive and defensive. His plus-minus rating has been very good."

* The Flames have searched for years for the perfect set-up center for Iginla, having tried Cory Stillman, Marc Savard and Conroy in that role. Daymond Langkow may not be the final answer, but the line is proving to be one of the NHL's best this season. Coaches love Langkow because the engine is always running at high RPMs and he never quits, regardless of score or situation.

"Daymond has had some good results for a smaller player," Keenan said. "He has a lot of bite to his game. When he plays with that edge, he can be effective and overcome some of the challenges he faces because he is smaller."

* The Flames recently signed veteran goalie Curtis Joseph who won his 447th NHL game last Wednesday in a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars. That tied Joseph with Terry Sawchuk for fourth all-time. Kiprusoff has played in 60 of the Flames' 63 games, but Joseph is expected to give him more relief over the next six weeks until the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

"Curtis brings some depth and experience," Keenan said. "He's happy to be back in the League. He's got the experience that might be required if anything happens to Kiprusoff, in terms of injury. He adds a presence in the room that is very important to us."

* Speaking of dressing-room presence, the Flames signed eight-year pro Cory Sarich to a five-year contract on July 1, the opening day of free agency. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Sarich is expected to block shots and deliver big hits.

"Cory has the experience and he understands when I talk to the team about the commitment and sacrifices that are necessary," Keenan said. "He knows the amount of concentration and poise it takes every night and he recognizes the amount of effort you need to be a Stanley Cup champion."

Keenan was asked how Sarich's Calgary teammates react to the fact he played on the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning that defeated the Flames in seven games.

"He's reminded of it often," Keenan said with a laugh.


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