Is Kuzmenko’s surge a sign of things to come for Flames?

Nazem Kadri scored a pair of third period goals and added an assist to help the Calgary Flames rally past the Arizona Coyotes 6-5.

CALGARY – The final road game in Arizona Coyotes history was punctuated by an insistence of “game-related questions only.”

Too bad, as Sunday’s 6-5 pond hockey exhibition meant nothing.

The question in Calgary is whether these sort of Flames wins mean anything for next season.

More specifically, is Andrei Kuzmenko’s recent goal spree a mere hot streak or something fans can expect to see moving forward?

While no one is suggesting the Russian winger is capable of keeping up a pace that has seen him score nine times and add six assists in his last nine games, the question is a hot topic. 

“He’s got a skill-set we don’t have,” said Flames coach Ryan Huska when asked about the recent sample size Kuzmenko has produced.

“We know when he feels good about his game he wants the puck on his stick and he can make things happen with it. So, I hope it’s seeing some things that we’re going to see in the future consistently from him.

“I mean, at this time of year sometimes it’s hard to tell because the games are a little bit different for us because of the situation we’re in. He looks much more comfortable on the ice right now, so if this is what a comfortable Kuzy looks like, then we’ll take that for sure.”

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“Comfortable Kuzy” scored 39 goals as an NHL rookie in Vancouver last season, meaning the No. 1 goal the Flames have is finding the right situation for him to play in.

The answer seems to revolve around playing him with Nazem Kadri, with whom Kuzmenko has meshed with for all nine of these games.

As part of Kadri’s second consecutive three-point outing Sunday, his seeing-eye pass to set Kuzmenko up for his fourth goal in the last two games was a thing of beauty.

In Vancouver, it was Elias Petterrson who helped Kuzmenko rack up 74 points in 81 games as a 27-year-old rookie out of the KHL.

Whether Kadri and Kuzmenko can combine to recreate similar offensive magic next season remains to be seen.

All told, Kuzmenko has 14 goals and 24 points in 27 games as a Flame, which would have him challenging for the team points lead over a full season.

Not bad for a salary-dump throw-in as part of the Elias Lindholm swap with the Canucks.

“Difficult start in Calgary, but now I understand guys in the locker room – very important for me, good guys,” said Kuzmenko, whose Flames battled back from a 5-3 deficit with three third-period goals, including one set up by Kuzmenko. 

“Not back to level I can play. How I play now and how I play last season for me is a big difference.”

Try as he might through broken English to explain his growing comfort level, he suggests the wear and tear of the NHL grind is something he’s better coping with.

“It’s very important moment for next season – I understand how to prepare,” said Kuzmenko, whose 45 points on the year (including half a forgettable season in Vancouver) has him second in the league in points for a player averaging under 15 minutes.

“My last league in KHL was not 82 games. Back-to-backs is big difference in this league.

“I understand how I can work.”

Time will tell if he does, as the knock on Kuzmenko as he struggled to find a way into Rick Tocchet’s good books, was his inconsistency, his lack of engagement at times.

Suddenly, he’s playing a big role in helping Kadri claw his way to 30 goals – a mark his two-goal performance Sunday has him just one goal short of.

“I think it’s just that kind of rejuvenation feeling, obviously coming to a new team, trying to prove some doubters,” said Kadri when asked of Kuzmenko’s secret to success of late. 

“I think that chip on your shoulder can be motivating for some players.

“Just playing with me, trying to read off each other and I think if he continues to do those little things that have got him in these situations, we’ll continue to have success.”

As for the Coyotes, who are a press conference away from relocating to Utah, the players have clearly been told to pretend there’s no elephant in the room.

“There’s lots of stuff going on around the league with every team,” shrugged Alex Kerfoot, whose club has one final game at Mullett Arena left on its schedule Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers.

“There’s always distractions, always stuff that’s going on. This is no different. 

“We’ve just got to be professionals out there, go about your business and try and win hockey games.”

Asked about how the organization has handled reports of the team’s imminent relocation, Andre Tourigny cut his post-gamer short.

“Game-only related questions,” he said.

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