Flames give Dawes a second chance

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 PM ET

The first impression wasn’t exactly what Nigel Dawes was hoping for.

Thankfully for the Calgary Flames forward, he was given another chance right away.

Dawes was part of Calgary’s roster in Tuesday’s 4-1 pre-season loss to Edmonton, and wasn’t all that impressive in the affair. He was given an opportunity to skate in Thursday’s tilt against the New York Islanders.

“I wasn’t really expecting it. If you’re gonna go, you might as well keep going,” he said. “I should be a step ahead because it is my second game and my feet should be under me.

“It’s a big one for me.”

Dawes started the game on a line with Theoren Fleury and — probably more importantly — second-line centre Daymond Langkow.

Since being claimed off waivers from the Phoenix Coyotes in the summer, Dawes has been itching for a chance to play in a top-six role. That would mean alongside Langkow, and having a chance to try building some chemistry with the veteran centre could mean the team has him pencilled in that spot.

“It’s what I’m shooting for, but nothing’s set in stone,” Dawes said. “A spot’s open and there are three or four guys fighting for two or three spots, so training camp will determine a lot. You have to show you can play in the top six and you belong in one of those spots.”

An offensive player in junior — he had a 47-goal, 92-point season with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice in 2002-03 — Dawes has been trying to parlay those skills in the NHL. He’s managed 25 goals and 51 points in 133 games with the New York Rangers and Coyotes, but not become the point producer.

To his benefit is familiarity with the Flames organization. It’s no secret GM Darryl Sutter liked the talent possessed by the 5-foot-8, 190-lb. winger.

Plus, Dawes won a gold medal at a world juniors tournament when Flames head coach Brent Sutter was the bench boss.

“He demands a lot of his players and holds everyone accountable,” Dawes said of Brent Sutter. “There’s no grey areas with him. You know what you’re going to get night in and night out and he expects the same from you.

“There’s no letting down.”

Plus, he’s hoping time in a big-time hockey environment will help after struggling late last season with Phoenix — where he was traded to from New York at the deadline.

“It’s definitely different. Being in Phoenix, with all that was going on and being out of the playoffs, there wasn’t much coverage,” he said. “Being in Canada, you know you’re going to be under the microscope night in and night out and that’s exciting. It’s closer to home for my family.

“I’m excited to be there.”

Not to mention he’s out of the mess surrounding the Coyotes.

“I don’t think it’s about where you’re playing,” Dawes said. “It’s about the opportunities you’re going to get. I think I really fit a lot better with this team than where I was pencilled in Phoenix. I’m excited to get this opportunity and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”


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