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Colorado Avalanche News » News » AVALANCHE Hensick starting to feel comfy Young center making impact since call-up 2008-11-15
AVALANCHE Hensick starting to feel comfy Young center making impact since call-up 2008-11-15
AVALANCHE Hensick starting to feel comfy Young center making impact since call-up  2008-11-15
EDMONTON, ALBERTA - Talk to any established NHL player, and he'll tell you: Until a player has the confidence that he expects to play a good game - and doesn't just hope to - he will forever be chasing the dream of becoming an established NHL player.

"It's the biggest thing that separates players at this level; it's that next level of confidence that allows a player to feel relaxed out on the ice," said former NHL forward Ray Ferraro, now an analyst with Canadian television. "You can instantly tell which players have it and which players don't. Until you feel comfortable out there, you're always going to be the opposite. It's an either-or proposition, I think."

Avalanche center T.J. Hensick looks like he's starting to feel comfortable. While three games of play so far this season do not constitute much of a benchmark, Hensick has added a big boost to the Avalanche in that time.

Not only has Hensick gotten two assists in those games, he has set up several other high- quality scoring chances and generally been dangerous with the puck most times he's had it. But perhaps the best thing Avs coach Tony Granato has liked about Hensick's game is what he's doing without the puck.

"To me, that's the area where he needed to improve the most, and he's been better there, no question," Granato said.

Hensick, the former University of Michigan forward who led the nation in scoring in 2006-07, is going after the puck when he doesn't have it. That means being more aggressive defensively. He's poke-checking pucks away from opponents and helping out more down low in his own end. In many of the 31 games he played for the Avalanche last season, it seemed Hensick lacked that confidence to go get the puck in high-traffic areas - and just in general.

Hensick, who turns 23 on Dec. 10, said he does, indeed, feel more confident than last season. But there is still room to climb up the ladder of comfort.

"I think I learned a little last year about the highs and lows and that you've got to try and keep an even keel," Hensick said. "I think the biggest thing for me is to just try to get a little better every day and work that much harder."

Hensick was one of the last cuts at training camp, which surprised some and which he admitted was "disappointing." But Hensick did the best thing he could have done, which was go to Lake Erie (AHL) and play well, scoring 13 points (six goals) in 10 games. Hensick credits veteran and Lake Erie linemate Brian Willsie for a lot of his minor-league success, leading to a promotion after Joe Sakic became sidelined with a bad back.

"(Willsie) really helped me a lot. He's a great player to play with, and I hope to play with him again," Hensick said.

Hensick hopes - or, perhaps expects - for that to happen at the NHL level, if it does.

Sakic status quo. The Avs hope to know today whether Joe Sakic will be available for Saturday's game here against the Oilers. There was no new update on his back condition Thursday.

Scoring change. A goal originally credited to Paul Stastny in the Avs' game at Vancouver on Wednesday night has been changed by the NHL to credit Marek Svatos, with assists from Stastny and Wojtek Wolski.

Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360 or adater@denverpost.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 14, 2008

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