Good health, great start … for Milan Michalek, it was anything but a coincidence.
After missing 16 games because of injuries during each of his first two seasons with the Ottawa Senators, the Czech winger arrived in camp this fall in tip-top shape, with no concerns about his health.
And yes, you can draw a direct line between that fact and Michalek’s current standing among the National Hockey League’s early season goal-scoring leaders. The speedy winger — who's garnered strong early support in fan balloting for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place — shares some thoughts about it all with ottawasenators.com:
Q: You’re off to a strong start this season. What’s been the key to that?
A: I’m healthy (for the first time) after a long time and I had a good summer of training. I feel good and confident now. I can use my speed now and my legs feel great. My teammates are playing great, too, so that makes it easier.
Q: How has it felt to be this healthy heading into a season?
A: It feels good. After two years of battling injuries, it nice not to think about anything (that way), just hockey. That’s been nice and I hope it’s going to stay that way.
Q: How frustrating has it been to deal with injuries the last two seasons?
A: It was really frustrating. I wasn’t able to show how well I could play and I couldn’t fulfill my potential, which was frustrating. I was thinking about it all the time. Now, hopefully, that’s behind me and I can stay healthy and show everybody how good I am.
Q: Your speed has always been one of your biggest assets. Is that something you’ve always had or is it something you needed to develop?
A: I was always one of the better skaters. When I was younger, I skated two or three times a day back home in Czech (Republic). I was always on the ice. I’ve always been a good skater and it’s helped me a lot.
Q: How much does playing on a line with Jason Spezza help your game?
A: A lot. He makes everybody better. He’s one of the best passers in the NHL and playing with him is a lot of fun.
Q: You’ve had lots of success in shootouts this season. Do you practise them a lot?
A: Not really. It’s more a confidence thing. If you’re confident, you always have a better chance of scoring. My first one this year, I scored, and I got confidence from that. It’s going in for me and, hopefully, it stays like that.
Q: What’s the key to being a successful shootout guy?
A: You have to be really patient because the goalies now are so good. You just have to see what they do. I think the goalies have a big advantage in shootouts.
Q: What are your goals for this season, both individually and as a team?
A: For me, the No. 1 thing is that I want to stay healthy and be a big part of this team. Make good plays, score some goals and be a good teammate. For the team, we want to take it game by game and if we can play good hockey for the (fans), I think I’ll be happy.
Q: How enjoyable has it been to have so many young guys around the team this season?
A: It’s great. I like it. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the room with all the new guys and there’s always lots of jokes. It’s been a lot of fun.
To vote for Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar on the 2012 NHL All-Star Game ballot, log on to vote.nhl.com or text the player’s last name to 81812.