With a black and yellow right eye and a few stitches above the left, it looks like Curtis Glencross has been through a war.
Fitting, since he may be the Calgary Flames’ most consistent soldier so far this season.
While the top lines are struggling to string together strong games, it’s tough to find a harsh word for Flames third- and fourth-liners.
Aside from a hard-to-swallow stick infraction that put his team two men and, ultimately, two goals down during the loss to the Washington Capitals last weekend, Glencross has been playing smart and hard-nosed hockey.
Rewarded with goals in two of the three games prior to Wednesday’s clash with the Detroit Red Wings, and five points total as a secondary scoring threat through the first 11 games, Glencross credits a calmer demeanour for his more consistent second season under head coach Brent Sutter.
Coaches talked to the 27-year-old left-winger about the mental aspects of the game when he left last year, and he came back to camp with that in mind.
“That’s a part of my game I wanted to work on. So far this year, I think I had a couple of games that weren’t as good, but they still weren’t at one of my worst. The separation hasn’t been as much. I’ve kind of tried to keep more of an even keel,” Glencross said this week.
“So far, it’s been alright for me.”
Despite a career-high 15 goals in 67 games last season, the Flames were at times frustrated with Glencross going through emotional highs and lows and getting put off his game too easily.
He’d been known to sour in mood when things weren’t going his way.
Still a serious and emotional player, Glencross has found ways to keep himself in a better frame of mind regardless of the blows he may take to his face or ego.
“It’s about being positive and having confidence and not letting little things bug you,” Glencross said. “You’re doing what you love. If something doesn’t go your way, and all of a sudden you’re not having fun coming to the rink anymore, it makes it harder to get out of that thing.
“We’re here with our buddies every day and having fun. Sure, it’s not always rosy, but at the same time, we’re all doing what we love.”
Love might be another factor involved in keeping Glencross on that even keel.
Whatever takes place during a practice or a game, he comes home to childhood sweetheart Tanya, whom he married in June.
“My wife’s really positive. I’m sure that’s helped me quite a bit, too,” said Glencross. “You have a bad day at the rink, and you’re a single guy and you sit around and mope. You have no one to talk to.”
Among the little things Glencross has been able to push through with more mental strength this year was an insane trade rumour that went viral on the Internet. Although the scenario said to bring Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray to Calgary for Glencross and Cory Sarich made no sense in terms of the salary cap, and maybe even less in hockey sense, the talk had his phone blowing up with messages from friends.
“I had a whole bunch of messages on my phone from my buddies that are Oilers fans asking me if it’s true,” he said. “I didn’t have a clue what was going on.”
Coaches told him he had nothing to worry about, and that was enough to satisfy his nerves.
The relationship in that regard is better, too. Sutter’s teachings sometimes involve making an example of a player during practice. And one such situation last season left Glencross seething for days.
When a similar thing took place this season and the winger had to sprint a leg alone as punishment during a drill, he took it in stride.
“He’s been honest with me. He tells me how it is. Sometimes, you don’t like to hear it, but ... it’s setting an example, too. The team, if they see one guy get (scolded), everyone else kind of perks their ears up. I could be next.
“Sure, it makes you look stupid and pisses you off a bit, but you can’t let it affect you for two days. I have to try and forget about it that day, come out the next day and just do your thing.”
So far, so good.