In less than one year’s time, Kent Huskins has gone from toiling in the minor leagues with a lack of self-confidence to a player firmly established on the Ducks.
A highlight of Huskins’ turnaround came on Monday night, as the 6-3 defenseman netted his first career goal on a wrister that hit Detroit’s Dominik Hasek’s shoulder and flipped into the net to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead in a game they would eventually win 6-3.
|Huskins holds the puck from his first NHL goal.|
Huskins’ solid play was something coach Randy Carlyle thought was possible when the team signed the defenseman as a free agent in 2005, but the results shown in the 2005 and 2006 training camps were not indicative of the player Carlyle had once previously coached.
“For whatever reason the two previous training camps he had with our hockey club (before this season) were terrible,” Carlyle said. “I had him in Manitoba (during the 2004-05 season). Both he and Joe DiPenta had played together there. In a lot of ways he was a higher level player than DiPenta and DiPenta has played two years in the league here.”
Huskins, along with Carlyle, searched for reasoning behind the lackluster camp performances.
“I was putting too much pressure on myself,” Huskins said. When you get into your fourth or fifth year as a pro, it becomes a do-or-die situation. You know this might be your last chance."
A higher level of confidence started to accrue within Huskins last year while with Portland. When the Ducks called him up after injuries to its blueline in December 2006, Carlyle noticed a transformed player.
“I think it was more of a mental block for Husky that he finally got comfortable,” Carlyle said. “He went down and he worked hard. Then when he came up, he played extremely well. We were very happy with his play. He has played fairly well for the hockey club since.
After going down to Portland one more time, Huskins remained a mainstay on the Ducks roster beginning February 25, sharing in the triumph of a Stanley Cup title. In the offseason, the Ducks rewarded Huskins’ efforts with a two-year contract extension.
“It was a nice bit of security that I haven’t experienced before in my career,” Huskins said.
As for the puck from his first NHL goal Monday night, Huskins said it’s definitely a keeper, which coincidentally is now what the Ducks feel he is on their roster.
Following practice Tuesday, Carlyle gave some specifics as to why Petteri Wirtanen was the player chosen to be called up from Portland on Monday. “We felt in our situation that we needed a solid, safe player,” Carlyle said. “He’s a young player that’s still in a developmental stage but we felt he could be a guy that could fit in and he was playing well down there. Ryan Carter was down there but has a groin strain and Jason King has a groin pull and his wife is due any day, so those were the options that were made available to us. The coach said he’d recommend Wirtanen, so that’s what we did.”