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Sam Gagner secret weapon for Blue Jackets

Playoff unknown looks to make name for himself

by Craig Merz / NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Sam Gagner has played 696 games in his NHL career, but when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he's somewhat of an unknown.

In fact, his first contact with the playoffs came last season when he played six games for the Philadelphia Flyers in an Eastern Conference First Round loss to the Washington Capitals.

"It was great last year to get that experience," Gagner said. "I felt we were playing playoff-like hockey even leading up to the playoffs, so that was important as a step in my development.

"Regardless of whether you're a young guy or a veteran, you've got to keep learning, trying to get better. So I feel like there's a lot of room for improvement. At the same time I feel comfortable in those crunch-time situations. I enjoy them.

 

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Gagner, who signed a one-year, $650,000 contract with the Blue Jackets on Aug. 1, has been a bargain, tying his NHL career highs in goals (18) and points (50) in 81 games mainly playing on the fourth line.

He had 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 53 games for the Flyers last season and played nine games for Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League.

His value was evident during the Blue Jackets' record 16-game winning streak from Nov. 29- Jan. 3, when he had 16 points (seven goals, nine assists), but Gagner followed that with a 30-game goalless streak.

"He's crucial to us," right wing Cam Atkinson said. "He's been playing well as of late, making plays. That's his mojo. We're going to need him, obviously, to come up big for us in the playoffs on the power play."

Video: CBJ@PHI: Gagner buries scorching one-timer past Mason

Gagner's versatility has been an asset. He was brought in as a center but has spent most of the season on the right side, although he's still called upon to take faceoffs.

He wants to be viewed as a go-to player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Over the course of a seven-game series, there's defining moments and different things happen that guys need to step up and make plays," he said. "That's why you play hockey, for those important games. You really see what guys are made of in those moments."

Forward Matt Calvert expects the postseason to bring out the best in Gagner.

"He's been around the League long enough to know you've got to bring that little extra this time of the year," Calvert said. "He's going to bring what he's brought all year, depth scoring. He's a real smart, gifted offensive player."

Video: BUF@CBJ: Gagner drills a slapper past Lehner for PPG

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