Focused on going far

Brendan McCarthy
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Machacek can help himself as he helps the IceCaps

Spencer Machacek (left) playing for the Winnipeg Jets, checks Columbus Blue Jackets' Vinny Prospal an NHL pre-season hockey game Sept. 20, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. - AP Photo file photo

It's easy to stumble if you keep looking backwards at where you just came from. Same thing if your eyes are peering too far out onto the horizon.

But as he and his St. John's IceCaps teammates prepared to begin their Calder Cup playoffs Friday night in Syracuse, N.Y., Spencer Machacek had his focus clearly on the task directly in front of him.

Machacek is coming off a breakthrough stint with the parent Winnipeg Jets and in 10 weeks, when he's set to become a restricted free agent, he should be able to parlay that it into a decent contract. But the 23-year-old right-winger also knows he can better himself even more by helping the IceCaps advance past the Syracuse Crunch in the first round and then further along in the American Hockey League post-season.

"Right now, this playoff run in St. John's can only help my status in the summer, so that's one reason I can't look past this," said the Lethbridge, Alta., native.

"I've been here for 95 per cent of the year, so this is my team and it's a good team. We can go far."

Top scorer

Despite spending a total of 13 games with the Jets this season, Machacek still finished as the IceCaps' leading scorer, with 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) in 61 games. Those numbers were only good enough to place Machacek in a tie for 52nd overall in AHL.

On the other hand, he contributed to an offence that produced the fourth-most goals in the league and helped St. John's to the Atlantic Division title.

"That kind of depth is going to help us in the playoffs, hopefully ... that and the ability to roll four lines," said Machacek.

"When it comes to bringing offence, we have a lot of guys who can do it and have done it. Look at Brock Trotter, who has been among the league's top scorers in the past.

"But on this team, the scoring has been really shared. It's been different guys every night and that's important in the playoffs."

Machacek has participated in the AHL post-season once before. That was a couple of years ago with the Chicago Wolves, when he had seven goals and 11 points in 13 games.

"We're excited and I know the fans in St. John's are excited, because they haven't seen (Calder Cup playoffs) for a few years and I'm excited too, because I haven't been in the playoffs a for a while either."

A month or so ago, there was the possibility Machacek might be in the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Jets and he did his bit in Winnipeg's playoff run, with nine points (two goals, seven assists) and a plus-eight rating during 11 games in March and April.

"Being part of a playoff push in the NHL is pretty cool," said Machacek. "It's unfortunate we didn't make it, but it was a great experience."

On many levels, not the least of which was that his latest time with the Jets helped convince Machacek himself that he was indeed an NHL-calibre player.

"I had played in the NHL before (a dozen games with the Atlanta Thrashers over the previous two seasons) and didn't have points, but that still helped prepare me for what happened this season," he said.

"This year, I wanted to have no regrets. The worse that could happen is that you get sent down and I'd already been through that before. And even though it's the highest-calibre hockey, it is basically hockey, something I've been doing my whole life.

"It also helped being up for an extended period of time (this spring). It helped keep me from being nervous, to perform my best, to show that I could play and have confidence to make the plays."

When the Jets' season concluded, Machacek and centre Patrice Cormier were reassigned to St. John's.

"We knew we were coming back down. It was inevitable," said Machacek.

"But it wasn't a negative. If you were coming back to a different environment, then maybe the situation wouldn't be the same, but we've had an unbelievable year here and the city's been awesome.

"I've had a lot of fun with this team and want to have some more."

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IceCaps, Winnipeg Jets, American Hockey League NHL Chicago Wolves Atlanta Thrashers

Geographic location: St. John's, Syracuse, N.Y., Winnipeg

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