Essentially stapled to the bench the last two periods of Saturday’s loss in Toronto, Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube subsequently had one of those chats with Darryl Sutter aimed to set the youngster straight.
“It was direct, it was honest,” said Dube, who played just six minutes despite starting the night on the first line. “When you have that you’re ready to go next game. You park it and move on and I’m ready to go tonight (against Ottawa).”
Late in the first period, the 22-year-old was trying to exit the Flames’ zone when he was victimized by a pinching Jake Muzzin. Seconds later Jason Spezza opened the score in a 2-0 loss.
Dube played just four shifts after that, sending a loud message to everyone on the team, including Josh Leivo, who only played five minutes.
After the game, Sutter suggested there were two forwards who had trouble with the size of the Leafs. He elaborated on the Dube benching after Monday morning’s pre-game skate in Ottawa.
“He really hasn’t struggled at all – he’s played really well until the second game of the back-to-backs,” said Sutter. “I think he lacked a little bit of energy and with that he lacked a little bit of his speed, which is essential to his game.”
Did his inability to get the puck out play a role in him sitting?
“Normally he does (get it out), but you’ve got to be able to do it over and over and over,” said Sutter. “He’s fine. He’s a good player for our team. He’s been really effective on that line.”
Sutter insisted Dube would return to the top unit alongside Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk in Monday night’s game against Ottawa, which isn’t surprising at all.
It’s a typical Sutter move to follow up criticism or limited ice time with a strong second chance, aimed at empowering the player.
He did it two games into his six-game tenure in Calgary by starting that top line after questioning whether he could trust certain members of it.
After Jacob Markstrom struggled mightily against Edmonton, giving up seven goals, he was given the starting assignment the next game.
“It has been good – it’s what we need, to hold each other to a higher standard,” said Dube of the increased accountability Sutter demands. “We kind of owe it to each other, and guys have to bring their best every night, especially in this shortened season.”
Dube was the first to admit he didn’t do that Saturday.
“I just think I needed to be better – I don’t think I was ready to go right off the start,” said Dube, who has fit in well on the top trio, scoring seven times. “For us to win against a Toronto team at the top of the division, I think everyone needs to be going, and I wasn’t. I need a better start from me and to be able to carry that through the whole game.”
FLAMES HARDLY SENS-ATIONAL AGAINST OTTAWA
The Flames have squandered five of a possible 10 points against the North’s worst outfit, something Sutter says is irrelevant.
“I haven’t been with this group,” said Sutter, who is 4-2 since rejoining Calgary. “If we were just focused on what they’ve done the first 30 games we could just stay with that and we could be a .400 to .500 hockey team, and we’re not that. We’re playing better hockey than that so I will assume we will tonight too.”
Aiding the possibility of a Flames bounce-back effort is the fact that injuries will force the Senators to start their fourth-string goalie. Filip Gustavsson will make his first NHL start, mere days after jumping in late to stop all eight shots he faced before losing a shootout to Vancouver.
The 22-year-old Swede suffers from Raynaud’s disease, which causes a lack of blood flow to his hands when stressed – something he experienced in his debut, limiting his ability to play the puck early until heat was applied.
Asked what he knows about Gustavsson, Dube was honest.
“Um, not too much,” he said. “He’s a young guy, my age. So, I think right away just get pucks on net. We’ve really got to get some shot volume on him.”
Tkachuk – Tierney – C. Brown
Stützle – Norris – Batherson
Paul – White – Dadonov
Dzingel – Bishop – Watson
Chabot – Zaitsev
Reilly – Zub
Wolanin – J. Brown
Coburn – Gudbranson