Sutter opts for experience over young legs

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:44 AM ET

DETROIT — Mikael Backlund wasn’t happy about not being in the lineup.

But that didn’t have him upset enough to smash a stick or two over the decision made by head coach Brent Sutter.

“It’s up to the coaches who play. I can just do my best when I get the chance,” Backlund said Monday after partaking in an optional skate at the Joe Louis Arena. “I get they want to play more experienced guys in the harder situations. But I want to play and want to get back in.”

That chance could come Tuesday when the Flames face the Detroit Red Wings.

Likely not, though.

Sutter said the decision to dress Craig Conroy over Backlund in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild had nothing to do with the rookie’s play but more a case of going with some veteran savvy.

“This situation on the road with line matchups and stuff like that, we felt it would be good to put Connie back in,” Sutter said. “It had nothing to do with Back. Back’s played extremely well. I’m happy with Back’s play. It’s just an experience thing and what Connie could bring to the room right now and things like last change. We don’t want to put Back in a position to fail.

“(Conroy’s) been through this before, and that experience, you’ve got to lean on it. It’s a game-to-game thing. I might change my mind (Tuesday).”

Conroy returned for the first time since suffering a knee injury Jan. 25. He was a healthy scratch the first two tilts after the Olympic break.

Backlund, the club’s 2007 first-round draft choice, has played 11 NHL games this season, recording one goal and two assists.

Although Backlund has young legs — he’ll celebrate his 21st birthday on St. Patrick’s Day — he could use a breather. He played seven games in 12 days — all on the road — for the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat during the NHL Olympic break before being recalled to the Flames.

Added Backlund of his time in the press box: “I was looking to see how the centremen were playing and how they were dealing with different situations — things like that.”


Videos

Photos