Matthew Tkachuk says ‘I’m not changing my game’ after suspension

Matthew Tkachuk got away with something here after dropping Drew Doughty with an elbow directly to the face. No penalty on the play.

Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk has been one of the team’s biggest and best surprises in his rookie season, scoring 13 goals and 46 points in 68 games after being drafted sixth overall last summer.

He’s quickly made a reputation for playing with some edge and sandpaper and got a two-game suspension this week after elbowing Kings defenceman Drew Doughty in the face last Sunday. Tkachuk is set to return to the Flames’ lineup Saturday in St. Louis — a team his dad Keith played with for seven seasons. And when Matthew steps back on to NHL ice, don’t expect the suspension to change the way he plays.

“I’m not changing my game at all,” Tkachuk said Friday.

Tkachuk has already made some enemies around the NHL, not the least of whom is the player he earned his suspension on.

“He’s a pretty dirty player, that kid. To be a rookie and play like that is a little surprising,” Doughty said afterwards.

But, of course, Tkachuk has also earned his fair share of fans. Already establishing himself as the kind of player you’d love to have on your team and hate to have against you, Tkachuk got the support of former Flames star Theo Fleury who said he loves the rookie’s style.

“He’s smart,” Fleury told Sportsnet’s Mark Spector. “What he did the other night was, he sent a message to the entire league. Yeah, it cost him two games, but I’m sure it will benefit him down the road.

“The more room you get on the ice, the more you have to do the things you do best. By creating some unpredictability, you get more room.”

Don’t expect the suspension to slow down Tkachuk or leave him thinking twice about creating his space with an elbow or stick. It’s the kind of game that got him picked so high in the draft, and contributed to his fast start in the NHL.

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