Carl Klingberg — File photo
Springfield, Mass. - After closing out the 2011-12 hockey season in a lengthy scoring funk, St. John's IceCaps winger Carl Klingberg is getting back to basics this year.
"I had six goals in my first six games last year, and then I had a long period without a goal," Klingberg said this week. "When that happens, you start to think about things too much. You change your game, and then you play even worse. That's what went wrong.
"You got to have trust in yourself and keep doing what you do best. Nothing else. Don't change your game."
A rookie last season out of the Swedish Elite league -he did wind up with the 2010-11 hockey campaign with eight games for the American league's Chicago Wolves - Klingberg was on fire for St. John's through two months last year, with nine goals through 17 games.
But after a six-game recall to the Winnipeg Jets, the 21-year-old Swede smashed into the wall, going 14 games without a goal after scoring twice in three games immediately after his reassignment from Winnipeg.
Then, as the season was winding down, Klingberg hit another slump, going scoreless in the IceCaps' final 17 games, and scoring only one goal in 12 post-season games (he was scratched for a couple of playoff games).
Still, he managed to close out the season with 15 goals and 37 points in 66 games.
"If I knew how to be consistent, there wouldn't be a problem," said the 34th overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft, nonetheless still considered a blue-chip Winnipeg prospect.
"It's hard. I can't really tell, but I have an idea - smile, and have fun at practice and work hard. Don't think too much and do what you do best. If you're on the fourth line, or you're not on the first power play, don't think about it. Just work hard wherever you are.
"Even if you're asked to play freakin' goalie, don't think about it. Just do it."
IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge says finding consistency will definitely be Klingberg's challenge this season.
But the player's a year older, with a year of North American pro hockey hockey experience under his belt.
In the IceCaps' final pre-season game against the Syracuse Crunch last weekend, Klingberg scored twice in a 6-5 overtime win for the Crunch.
"Carl is finding how to play the pro game," McCambridge said. "Last year, he came out with a lot of energy. He skates well, was getting a feel for the pro game, but as the season wore on, the ups and downs of an American Hockey League season, with the travel and with all the games, I thought that started to take its toll on Carl.
"He needs to find that consistency in his game, to have that balance from start to finish. I like what I've seen out of him at camp, I like his speed, and I like his puck possession."
A gifted skater, Klingberg must use his speed to be effective. McCambridge said he noticed in training camp the 6-3, 205-pound winger has been taking pucks to the net more frequently, using his speed to blow past defencemen.
"There were times," said McCambridge, "when Carl had opportunities to take pucks to the net, using that speed to drive defencemen wide, but he would lay back.
"Now I've seen in camp that he's getting that part of it, where you have to take pucks to the net to create rebounds, those second-chance opportunities.
"But he needs to ensure it's there consistently night in, night out."
Klingberg admits he is somewhat happy with his second North American professional training camp, but not completely satisfied.
"I started off well last year," he said, "but the thing is you have to keep it up the entire season. That's where my biggest challenge is."