TORONTO – Another change of scenery has done nothing to help Chris Higgins re-discover his scoring touch.
Higgins’ has yet to register a point in seven games with the Florida Panthers. He was held off the scoresheet in Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the only evidence of his time with the team so far is a two-minute hooking penalty he took four games into the season.
Nobody knows better than Higgins himself that things have to change, and soon.
“I’m off to another rough start again this year, but I’m just going to keep battling, come to work every day,” Higgins said. “Obviously I have an opportunity here to get things going again and I have to do so pretty quickly.”
Drafted 14th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2002, Higgins has fallen on rough times recently after glimpsing some goal-scoring potential while playing a gritty, two-way game early on in his career.
The winger scored 20-plus goals three times in Montreal before falling out of favour there. He was traded to the New York Rangers as part of the deal that sent Scott Gomez to the Canadiens in the summer of 2009, but after failing to hit his stride on Broadway he was on the move again, this time to the Calgary Flames.
Higgins ended last season with just eight goals in 67 games, but earned another shot when the re-building Panthers signed him as an unrestricted free agent.
The 27-year-old has been given chances to prove himself on the Panthers’ scoring lines, but has begun to sink down lower in the line-up. The key to rising, he believes, is to bury his head and get back to basics.
“Just keep my game simple and get to the paint and get some dirty goals around the net,” Higgins said.
From hockey-mad Montreal and Calgary to the Big Apple’s bright lights, Higgins has spent his career in cities where clubs are closely scrutinized. It’s a different story in Florida, and the slower place–not to mention the climate–is not something he’s complaining about.
“It is nice. The weather is nice, too,” he said. “It’s almost 90 degrees (Fahrenheit, 32 C) still down there.
“Certainly, if you want to get away from the game, you can. It’s not like Canada where every third channel is a hockey highlight. If you turn on the TV, you have to look for the hockey highlights.”