Can Andrei Kuzmenko keep this up? The Flames are hoping so

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Imagine if Andrei Kuzmenko could produce at this same sort of clip for all of next season.

So far, this salary dump has provided plenty of offensive thump for the Calgary Flames.

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The Russian right-winger cashed another goal — and added an assist, too — during Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes and now has 14 notches and two-dozen points in 27 games since being traded to Cowtown.

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If he could maintain that pace across a full slate, he’d finish in the 40-goal and 70-point range.

The Flames would gladly sign up for that.

“When he is feeling good about his game, he wants the puck on his stick and he can make things happen with it,” praised head coach Ryan Huska. “So I hope this is seeing some things that we’re going to see in the future, consistently, from him. I mean, at this time of the year, sometimes it’s hard to tell because the games are a little different for us in the situation that we’re in, but he looks much more comfortable on the ice right now.

“So if this is what a comfortable Kuzy looks like, we’ll take that, for sure.”

Whether this is just a hot streak or a sign of things to come, there’s no doubt Kuzmenko is finishing the 2023-24 campaign on a high note.

In his nine outings on Nazem Kadri’s wing, he has racked up nine goals and seven assists. Across the entire NHL, only Auston Matthews and Steven Stamkos have tickled more twine over that 18-day span. Only Nikita Kucherov has more total points. That’s elite company.

Kuzmenko buried 39 last winter on behalf of the Vancouver Canucks, so the scoring pop — including Friday’s hat-trick in Anaheim — doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

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The Canucks didn’t doubt his offensive skill-set. There were, however, questions about his handiwork and give-a-hoot in his own zone and the West Coasters were keen to unload his contract — with a US$5.5 million cap-hit for this season and next — as part of a trade for Elias Lindholm.

The way the 28-year-old Kuzmenko has been filling the score-sheet, and the way he seems to be clicking with Kadri, that almost seems like a bargain.

“A lot of work before this last nine games,” Kuzmenko told reporters after Sunday’s victory over the soon-to-be-on-the-move Coyotes. “It’s not a surprise, the results, because it’s big work for me. And before, big changes.

“It’s a big difference for me, because it’s my second season in this league. I understand what I need, how I need to work and train, how I need to focus … and how I need to believe in myself.

“Difficult start in Calgary, it was. But now, I understand.”

That could be big news for the Flames.

Kadri, who potted a pair of goals Sunday against the Coyotes, boosting his season total to 29, suggested that Kuzmenko’s current tear might be a result of “that rejuvenation feeling” and a determination to silence any doubters.

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As Kadri put it: “I think that chip on your shoulder can obviously be motivating for certain players.”

If that’s the case, hopefully Kuzmenko can keep that chip right where it is.

“For me, don’t stop,” he said. “Work, work work.”

And score, score, score?

The Flames would be fine with that.

AROUND THE BOARDS

Kadri’s career-high is 32 goals, a number he hit in back-to-back campaigns with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After a pair of third-period tallies Sunday at the Saddledome, he’s now on the brink of 30 for the third time in his career. “Obviously, I’ve proved I can get there before,” Kadri said. “So I can never sell myself short” … Matt Coronato, Yegor Sharangovich and Connor Zary also found the back of the net against the Coyotes … Sharangovich’s second-period strike —a slick move to his backhand after a feed from captain Mikael Backlund — will be a big story in his homeland. With that goal, Sharangovich set a new single-season record for most points by a Belarusian, with 59. That mark previously belonged to his friend and mentor, Mikhail Grabovski … Flames workhorse MacKenzie Weegar is now a member of a bruised crew. Across the NHL, he’s one of just five dudes to block 200 shots this season … Between the pipes, Dustin Wolf earned a third straight victory. Dylan Guenther tucked two for the visitors, while Alex Kerfoot, Matias Maccelli and Josh Doan also slipped pucks past Wolf … Coronato called his own number on a two-on-one rush, pondering a pass to Kevin Rooney but instead wiring a wrister past Connor Ingram on the glove-side. While Coronato has only notched three NHL goals so far, the 21-year-old right-winger has averaged 1.05 points per game in 40 appearances in the minors, an encouraging stat-line for a first-year pro. As he reminded everybody with Sunday’s snipe, this kid has a wicked shot.

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OFF THE GLASS

Blake Coleman is the latest winner of the Peter Maher Good Guy Award, which is voted by local media and presented to the Flames player who best demonstrates the virtues of the legendary radio broadcaster — sincerity, integrity, dedication and respect. Maher, who was the voice of the Flames for 33 seasons, was at Sunday’s morning skate to hand out the hardware and even marked the occasion with a “Yeah, baby!” … Coleman, by the way, missed a third consecutive contest due to an upper-body injury … The Flames have two games remaining — Tuesday’s clash with the Canucks in Vancouver and Thursday’s home capper against the San Jose Sharks.

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