Second helping Ties him over

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Byron Ritchie established a new team record Tuesday night.

Not one you'll find in any media guide or stat sheet but one that has plenty of importance in the Calgary Flames dressing room.

The sparkplug centre is the first to earn the All-Business Tie for a second time this season after a gutsy effort during the Flames' 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Saddledome.

It was passed on by winger Alex Tanguay, who took the coveted cravat from Roman Hamrlik after a two-assist showing in the 4-1 win over Chicago last week.

"It's an honour to get recognized as working hard from teammates," said Ritchie yesterday. "It's a good feeling.

"The most important thing is we got the win and played well."

Making the honour doubly delightful was the fact Ritchie was hand-picked for the honour by a teammate playing an extra special game -- his first against the team that sent him packing this summer.

"He's an extremely hard worker," said Tanguay, who potted his team's fifth goal that night. "In the second period he created a penalty that allowed us to have a 5-on-3. He played extremely well, went at the net. He played with a lot of grit out there, determination."

Ritchie had three shots on goal and blocked three for his side while racking up a season-high 14:24 of ice time, a third of which came on the penalty kill.

His ramped-up role hasn't been discussed with head coach Jim Playfair but the 29-year-old will take what he can get in his second season with the Flames.

"Not much has been said. (Playfair) gave Marcus (Nilson) and I penalty-killing duties and both of us took pride in it. I think we did a pretty good job of it.

"It's just circumstance, I guess, but I'll take it and hopefully it's a sign of things to come."

The former Florida Panther started the season bouncing in and out of the lineup but has played 13 of 14 games since Stephane Yelle was injured in Boston Oct. 19.

It's a role he's used to -- although it's a difficult job to embrace -- after similar stints in Florida and Carolina.

In five previous NHL seasons, Ritchie hasn't appeared in more than 50 games. His highest goal total is five and the most points he has recorded is 11. He's never been a plus player. But maybe a little more responsibility is all the versatile 5-ft., 10-in., 190-pounder needed.

He's a plus-3 with the Flames, has scored once and added a couple of helpers in 18 games so far and seems to be getting better as the season progresses.

"For me, personally, I feel the most comfortable I've felt confidence-wise and ability-wise," said Ritchie. "I don't know if it's just a matter of the time -- I'm 29 now, I've been around for a while and finally confident in my own abilities.

"Hopefully I can continue doing that and put up some offensive numbers like we're capable of."

Another area Ritchie has been contributing is in the faceoff circle. He went 11-5 (a 68% success rate) Tuesday, better than all skaters on either team who took more than one draw other than Flames captain Jarome Iginla (5-2, 71%).

"He's been real good in the faceoffs," said head coach Jim Playfair.

"(Tuesday) night he did a good job on the penalty kill. I thought we had better up-ice pressure on our kill and I think it was (due) in large part to his ability to get up there quickly.

"He's done what we've asked him to do lately. That's what we need. We need more from our third and fourth lines as far as energy, as far as battle, as far as competing and as far as making the game uncomfortable for the opposition."


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