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During his first trip to Madison Square Garden this season -- and first visit to New York ever! -- ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang caught up with Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau about his rookie season, the Calder Trophy race and whom he picked to win it all in the NCAA tourney in this week's installment of the New York Minute.
STRANG: What has your rookie experience been like so far?
HUBERDEAU: It's definitely been different than I expected it to [be]. We got off to a good start, but there [were] a lot of injuries on our team, so a lot of guys had to step up and I have [had] more ice time than I would've been expecting to have. I just took it as a learning process and I learned a lot from it. [I'm] trying to do my best every game.
STRANG: Goal and two assists in your NHL debut. Not a bad way to start your pro career.
HUBERDEAU: It was pretty nice to have that and have that be in Florida, at a home game. To do that, I couldn't ask for a better start. To do that in front of my family, too, was great.
STRANG: How has the increased role and ice time affected you, specifically?
HUBERDEAU: You need to be better. You don't want to put pressure on yourself but, for sure, you have a bigger role than you were supposed to have. That's what we're trying to do. We're not having the results we wanted, but we're trying right now.
STRANG: Even though you guys haven't gotten the results you've wanted, do you feel like there is something to be gained or learned from a tough season like this?
HUBERDEAU: We need to have a good start, that's what we learned. Every time we're down 1-0, 2-0, it's hard to come back, so that's what you learn. And I think as a team you still need to have fun, even if you're losing, but you have to regroup as a team, too. You can't just say 'I'm going to do whatever on my own.' I think that's great and that's what I learned from it, you have to stay together as a team rather than be by yourself.
STRANG: What does the Calder Trophy race mean to you?
HUBERDEAU: You hear about it but, nah, I'm not thinking about it right now. If it's not helping my team, I don't care about the individual stuff. I'll think about it after the season. If I have it, that's great, but if I don't it'll still be all right, as long as I helped my team win some games. That's what I want. If you score some goals, you're helping your team, so that's what you want to do.
STRANG: Any veteran guy on the team who has been particularly helpful to you in making the transition to the NHL?
HUBERDEAU: A lot of veteran guys. They are all nice to me. Brian Campbell helped me a lot when I ask a lot of questions, and Kris Versteeg I live with, so he's helped me a lot too in my process here, in the NHL, so it's great.
STRANG: How's Versteeg as a roommate? Or landlord more like it, probably.
HUBERDEAU: He's a good roommate. He lives with his girlfriend, so I live with them as their kid, kinda.
STRANG: Good cooks? Are they making sure you're well-fed?
HUBERDEAU: This year we don't have much of an opportunity to eat at home because we're so busy [being on the road] but I have my own room, my own bathroom. I enjoy it.
STRANG: Have you been officially indoctrinated to the insanity that is March Madness? Did you fill out a bracket?
HUBERDEAU: Yeah, I did. I don't know much about it, though.
STRANG: Who'd you pick to win it all?
HUBERDEAU: I picked Gonzaga to win, but I think a lot of people did, so that might not be good. I didn't pick a lot of upsets.
STRANG: Stuck with the favorites ...
HUBERDEAU: [laughing] Yeah, I played it safe.