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Flames' Hudler grows into leadership role

Former Red Wings forward leads Calgary in assists, points

Thursday, 12.19.2013 / 3:07 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Flames\' Hudler grows into leadership role
Former Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler leads the Flames with 21 assists and 30 points this season. Rookie Sean Monahan, whom Hudler has mentored this season, is second on the team with 16 points. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – It’s been such a turnaround both on and off the ice for former Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler that one of his closest friends in Detroit’s locker room hardly recognizes him anymore.

“You know he’s changed when he’s texting me and says, ‘Hey Bear, be a leader. Good luck,’ ” Wings forward Daniel Cleary said. “I’m like, ‘Who the hell is this kid?’”

The Red Wings selected Hudler in the second round of the 2002 NHL draft. He averaged 42.4 points in each of his five full seasons in Detroit where he showed flashes of great offensive instincts and a Houdini-like ability to escape the corners with the puck.

Now in his second season in Calgary, Hudler, who signed a four-year contract worth $16 million prior to the 2012 NHL lockout, has become the Flames’ go-to-guy, leading the team with 30 points in all 34 games, and showing leadership acumen.

“He’s a great pro,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “I’ve said it before; he was raised in a great organization. When you have a Stevie Y, a Datsyuk and a Lidstrom around you, I don’t think you can find any better school to make you first steps in the NHL.”

Hudler became a teacher during training camp when he took in 19-year-old rookie Sean Monahan helping the rookie make the jump from the Ontario Hockey League to the NHL while also getting acclimated to life as a professional.

“I came into training camp and it was couple of days in and we got talking,” said Monahan, the sixth overall pick in last June’s draft. “He asked me if I wanted to move into his house for the rest of camp and for as long as I was staying. It was nice of him and I respect him for doing that.

“He’s a great guy and he treated me really well. We talked a lot and he has a lot of experiences in this league, so we talked about the experiences that he’s been through and that will definitely help me for the rest of my career.”

This season, Hudler became the first player in league history  to record points in every game of the first nine contests to start a campaign. While his production has cooled, the Flames hope Hudler continues to help with Monahan’s young development in Detroit where the pair will work on a line with 5-foot-7 winger Paul Byron.

“I feel that Monny and Huds really needed the Energizer Bunny around them,” Hartley said. “We need offense from those two guys and I feel with putting Paul on that line, we’re adding our fastest guy to their line. Our lines are written in pencil on my sheet so it can change real quick but I like what (Byron) can bring to Monny and Huds and hopefully it’s the right combination.”

Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall believes Hudler learned most of his hockey traits during his time in Detroit’s winning culture.

“He’s done a great job and he leads the team in scoring and he’s playing well on both ends of the ice,” Kronwall said. “Off the ice I heard that Monahan was living with him, so he’s helping out in many different ways.

“I think he’s matured big time. I think he’s taken upon himself more responsibility and I’m sure it has something to do with here he was always behind somebody else. In Calgary now he’s taken on more responsibilities and becoming more of a leader that way than he had to be here.”

Hudler won’t be the shortest player on the ice tonight – that distinction will belong to Byron – however, the 29-year-old Czech must overcome his short stature every night, though Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has other ideas.

“It might be good for me that I know what he’s all about, otherwise you can get tricked by his size,” Ericsson said. “He’s strong in the corners and I know that, so it could be an advantage for me that I know that. But he pretty much knows what I’m about too, so we’ll see who gets on top tonight.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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