SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter stokes the Flames

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:15 PM ET

Flames GM Darryl Sutter has a message for his struggling offensive players:

Find your top-end form immediately or youngsters may be taking your place in the lineup.

With the Flames flickering and their farm team rolling, Sutter -- who made himself visible after yesterday's practice -- called up forwards Dustin Boyd and Brandon Prust.

"Their record and their performances speak for themselves. I've seen them play four of nine (games)," Sutter said as Flames players trickled out of the dressing room for their three-game road trip beginning tonight. "The one thing you know for sure about those kids is they're winners and they're good competitors and that's not something they've learned in the last two weeks.

"The adjustment they (must) make as first-year players playing pro hockey is to become good pro players. At the same time, they're very similar players to some of our high-end players in here, so if somebody's struggling here, their opportunity should be now."

With his team limping out of the gates at 3-6-1, Sutter was asked if he thinks the team needs a jolt.

His reply -- "Our kids are close to playing" -- let it be known it's a consideration.

Boyd, in his first year as a pro, has nine goals and four helpers in Omaha. He said he's looking forward to helping the struggling squad if his name is called tonight.

"It's just another challenge for me," said Boyd, who hails from Winnipeg.

"The tough part is it'll be the first time switching teams like this, so I'll have to take it and go with it."

Boyd leads the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in scoring and said his confidence is soaring.

"That's huge and the team's playing well, so I've benefitted from that too," said Boyd, 20, adding he'll likely find out at this morning's skate if he's drawing into the lineup.

Sutter, who relinquished the coaching duties after last season to concentrate on his GM role, picked out a few players who aren't up to snuff.

Of these players, Sutter pointed his finger Alex Tanguay, Matthew Lombardi and Chuck Kobasew.

"Alex, Lombo and Chuck looked like they were starting to find it on that road trip and they were pretty much invisible the last two games," he said. "Those are three skilled guys and they're not pulling their weight."

But Sutter's wrath didn't end there, taking aim at veteran defencemen Robyn Regehr and Rhett Warrener, who have both been overshadowed by second-year rising star Dion Phaneuf.

"I think our leadership group can be a lot stronger. Somebody has to assume Steph's (the injured Stephane Yelle's) role in that, which is really important.

"I think Jarome (Iginla) has done a really good job in that but he needs (help). Robyn and Rhett have to be a lot stronger ... (because) their performance speaks for itself. They have to lead by example and neither one has played very well yet.

"You can't expect Dion to be the go-to guy in terms of the overall game."

Sutter did hand out some kudo to forwards Daymond Langkow, Tony Amonte and Iginla, whose six goals and five assists add up to one of the best starts of his career.

"Jarome's played well right from the start," Sutter said. "The old thing, whenever the team doesn't win a game, becomes 'they need a centreman because Jarome doesn't have a centreman' but Jarome's on a 50-goal pace, so it's got nothing to do with the centreman."

And the picture isn't pretty for a team that has games in the Motor City, Columbus and St. Louis on this trip.

The Flames aren't far off their performance 10 games into last season. And they ended up winning the Northwest Division.


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