Streaky Stempniak hopes off-season drills pay off with consistency

 

Flames winger part of lockout gathering in Boston that was short on numbers, leading to more one-on-one drills.

 
 
 
 
Calgary Flames, from left, defenceman Mark Giordanno, centre Mikael Backlund and right winger Lee Stempniak celebrated after Backlund scored the Flames’ first goal on Saturday night against Edmonton.
 

Calgary Flames, from left, defenceman Mark Giordanno, centre Mikael Backlund and right winger Lee Stempniak celebrated after Backlund scored the Flames’ first goal on Saturday night against Edmonton.

Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

Like all of his brethren, Lee Stempniak lost considerable money during the NHL lockout.

But Stempniak — a positive sort even during the worst of times — can look back and see the sunny after-effects of all those seemingly meaningless ice sessions in a time of frigid labour relations.

“During the lockout, it was Ryan Whitney, Keith Yandle, Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Jay Pandolfo, Greg Campbell, Dan Paille and myself,” the Calgary Flames right wing says of the NHLPA crew back in Boston. “With the lack of numbers, we had to do a lot more one-on-one, two-on-two kind of stuff then full-ice stuff.

“But I think it might have helped us out going into the season.”

Judging by the early returns, Stempniak might want to follow the exact same training regimen next off-season. After four games, the Dartmouth College graduate leads the Flames scoring race — alongside Curtis Glencross — with three goals and five points.

All that one-on-one practice appeared to pay off in Saturday’s 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. In the first period, Stempniak won a battle with defenceman Nick Schultz along the boards and threw the puck back to Mark Giordano.

Giordano whipped it over to Jay Bouwmeester, who beat goalie Devan Dubnyk through a perfect screen created by Jarome Iginla.

That workmanlike assist sticks out as his personal highlight of a three-point night.

“Yeah, any time you go against someone one-one-one-for a puck battle like that, you want to win it,” he said. “I think that’s something that is one of the things that helps me be more consistent. If you’re able to go out there and win more of those than you lose, you keep plays alive. You get more chances and things like that lead to more scoring chances.

“That’s all part of it, moving your feet, winning those puck battles, and basically just keeping pucks alive in the offensive zone and getting those second and third chances.”

Chances aside, Stempniak, 29, is known for going hot and cold more often than Calgary in a winter chalk full of chinooks.

Three years ago, he amassed 14 goals in 18 games after the Toronto Maple Leafs shipped him to the Phoenix Coyotes for a combined total of 18.

He is coming off a 14-goal season in Calgary.

“I’ve been trying to be more consistent,” Stempniak said. “Unfortunately, I’ve sort of been a streaky scorer in the past. I’m trying to take the same approach and be consistent and hopefully the scoring will become more consistent as we go along.”

So far, so good.

vhall@calgaryherald.com

 
 
 
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Calgary Flames, from left, defenceman Mark Giordanno, centre Mikael Backlund and right winger Lee Stempniak celebrated after Backlund scored the Flames’ first goal on Saturday night against Edmonton.
 

Calgary Flames, from left, defenceman Mark Giordanno, centre Mikael Backlund and right winger Lee Stempniak celebrated after Backlund scored the Flames’ first goal on Saturday night against Edmonton.

Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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