Not that you want to get too comfortable, but do you feel like for the first time in your NHL career you've earned a regular spot in the lineup?
Yeah, I do. It takes time, you know. Nothing gets handed to you, and I had my moments when I was really inconsistent. But I have to say, all the coaches I've had here, and all the teammates, were really supportive of me and worked with me. I remember when Garth (Snow) was my teammate. He went out of his way as a veteran player to make me feel comfortable. Now I'm glad I get to be a part of what we're building.
You're signed for two more seasons after this one...
And that's good. With this group of players and the way Scott (Gordon) is leading us, I want to be here for a long time and see it through. These last two months, we're starting to see that all the hard work to commit to the new system is going to pay off.
A lot has been written and said about Mark Streit the last few days. What don't we know about your D partner?
Let me tell you something. I've had the good luck to play with a lot of great leaders here. Doug Weight and Brendan Witt, Billy Guerin when he was here. I think Mark Streit is one of the best. Such an emotional leader.
I have to be honest with you. I'm surprised to hear that. Mark seems like such a mild-mannered guy.
True, he's a really nice guy off the ice, but that's different. I'm telling you: he's become an incredible leader for us. Just talking about my own experience with him, Mark gets on me. If I make a soft play, I hear about it from him. He pushes and pushes me, and I think that's made me a much better player the second half of this season.
Although Streit is known for his offense, from watching you play together, it's not like he's always the one rushing the puck and you're stuck to take care of the defense.
Not at all, that's right. We have really good chemistry. We know how to handle each situation. It's become like second nature. When he goes, I have it covered. And if he gets the puck to me, I never have to worry about him having my back. Even with some of the attention Mark is getting lately, his defensive play is really underrated. He deserves to get a lot of Norris votes.
Is it fair to say Streit has had a lot to do with you developing into a regular this season?
There is no doubt about it. I even have the locker stall next to his. Between periods, he's always encouraging me: "YOU GO"! You would think if you're the defense partner of Mark Streit, that's the last thing you'd be doing. But Mark wants what's best for me and the team. On top of that, he knows everything about every player in the league. He is so well-prepared and that has rubbed off on me. Confidence comes from preparation.