Butler itching to play after two games in press box
Defenceman was a healthy scratch in Buffalo for 32 games during the 2010-11 season
Flames defenceman Chris Butler enters the rink during the opening ceremonies of the game against the San Jose Sharks prior to their NHL game at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta Sunday, January 20, 2013. (Stuart Gradon/Calgary Herald) (For Sports story by Vicki Hall) 00042044A
Photograph by: Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald
By Chris Butler’s estimation, he was scratched from the Buffalo Sabres roster approximately 32 times during the 2010-11 season.
And last year with the Calgary Flames? A grand total of zero. So, you can bet the memories that came flooding back for the 26-year-old defenceman when Bob Hartley had him in the press box twice already to start the salvaged (and condensed) 2013 NHL season. Bluntly put,“it sucks.”
However, based on Wednesday’s defensive pairings that saw Butler draw in beside Cory Sarich, there’s a good indication he’ll be back on the ice tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.
“Nobody wants to not be in the lineup,” said Butler who had two goals and 13 assists in 68 games under Brent Sutter in 2011-12. “When you’re as competitive as the guys are in the locker-room, you want to play. At the same time, when you’re not playing, you have to continue to work hard and that’s pretty much all you can worry about.”
Having been through the drill before, he knew what to expect when he took a seat in Vancouver and again versus the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. There are extra conditioning workouts, bike rides, and video analysis.
Butler understood the reasoning (a rotation system set up by the coaching staff), not that he was OK with it.
“If you’re OK with getting scratched, then you’re playing the wrong game,” Butler said. “We had good conversations (with the coaching staff). They didn’t beat me to the ground and tell me I was the worst player or anything.
“There were just some things they wanted me to work on and make sure I stay sharp.”
Among the topics, he said, were ensuring his stick is always taking away a passing lane, not giving teams time and space, and trying to try to create offence.
Injured defender Anton Babchuk, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, was paired with Derek Smith on Wednesday which may mean the writing is on the wall tonight.
“I told Smitty, I’m very happy with him but it’s going to be a long season,” Hartley explained. “No. 1, we want to keep everyone competitive but, at the same time, we don’t want anyone to be sitting out for too long.
“It’s basically a rotation.”
Understand, too, that it’s not a fun situation for Hartley, either, to inform his perfectly healthy and capable blueliners to step aside.
“Players don’t really care about rotations,” he said. “But they’re reacting very professionally and I appreciate it. I explain to them that we’re doing this for the benefit of the team.
“And since we don’t have any injuries on the blueline, there’s kind of a traffic jam out there. So we will try to rotate some guys to keep everyone sharp.”
THE WIDEMAN EFFECT
Anyone wondering about defenceman Dennis Wideman’s impact on the power play can peek at the NHL team statistics.
Currently, the Flames sit seventh, with an impressive 29.4 success rate (5-for-17).
Wideman has two helpers with the man-advantage, but coach Bob Hartley says the newcomer’s contributions go beyond points.
“Puck control. Vision,” said Hartley. “Every other team, they really respect his shot. Obviously, if they don’t pay attention to him, he’s going to shoot. We all know the quality of his shot. And if they pay attention to him, that opens other guys. He’s bringing us a totally new dimension.”
Wideman leads the team with more than 20 minutes’ worth of power-play toil already.
“Like many other power-play specialists in the NHL, they have the ability to move the puck, to straddle that blue line, keeping their head up,” said Hartley. “He brings us so many nice offensive options on the power play. He wants the puck, he handles the puck. He makes smart decisions. He’s been very good, plus defensively, he’s been outstanding.”
BABCHUK NEARING ACTION
Anton Babchuk (shoulder) is getting closer to returning to game action, but he is still wearing a yellow don’t-hit-me smock during practice.
“Well, we’re working on his conditioning,” said Hartley. “He’s a defenceman with a big, big cannon. We’re just trying, right now, to get him into shape. It’s great that he sees what we’re trying to do right now from a team-system concept. Around next week, he should be cleared for contact. And that’s when we’ll have to make some decisions.”
Last season, the 28-year-old Babchuk recorded 10 points in 32 appearances.
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