“I didn’t get off to the start I wanted, but since Christmas, the last 20 or 25 games, it’s been good. Hopefully I carry it on and keep going.” – Brett Sutter
Until the past two weeks, the Calgary Flames have enjoyed a fairly injury-free season, although that host of health hasn’t translated into points in the standings. In some regards, it can be argued that the Flames ability to stay on the ice and out of the clinic has hampered them instead of helped them.
When incumbents go down, it usually results in young blood coming up and infusing the club with infectious energy. While this transfusion usually only brings short-term relief, it can solidify and sometimes even strengthen a teams resolve and commitment to detail. It's a commodity that has been in short supply in this disappointing campaign.
When Daymond Langkow joined Curtis Glencross and Christopher Higgins on the sidelines, and the usual cast of suspects sitting in the press box not getting the job done when called upon, Darryl Sutter reached down to the Abbotsford farm and pulled out a familiar plum – his son Brett.
The junior member of the Sutter squad made an immediate impact with the Flames in his return to the Stampede City side in Tuesday evening’s efficient 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Not only did he play a regular shift, create numerous scoring chances when he was on the sheet and provide diligent defensive coverage, he dropped the mitts and went toe-to-toe with the Ducks Brett Festerling, dropping the bulky blueliner with a sharp right cross mere seconds after the opening bell.
The well-time bout – the lads exchanged fistic recipes only two minutes into the match - lit a fuse under the Flames and the team responded with clear-minded ambition. The result was a tidy and tight effort, short on drama but long on ramifications as the Flames pulled within two points of the final rung on the playoff ladder.
Jarome Iginla collected a pair of assists while Nigel Dawes and Rene Bourque continued to pace the club offensively, each notching well-earned markers. Even the snake-bitten and luck-free Niklas Hagman was able to hit the scoresheet, adding a third period insurance goal for only his second goal since being exiled form Toronto.
The road to the playoffs is still long and its path paved with potholes, but it can be traveled if the club continues to perform with conscientious culpability.
After the club completes their three road game trip through the Eastern Conference, the view will be much clearer. What we’ll see remains to be seen.