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Stajan to play against old club

Flames forward Matt Stajan is anxious to face his former team, the Maple Leafs, Thursday night in...

Flames forward Matt Stajan is anxious to face his former team, the Maple Leafs, Thursday night in calgary. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

There were two games on this season’s schedule Matt Stajan desperately didn’t want to miss.

Thursday night was No. 1.

(The other, so you know, is Jan. 15 back at the ACC)

As a healthy scratch the past two Calgary Flames games, Stajan had to be wondering, but Wednesday he was told by head coach Brent Sutter to be ready.

Now the centre’s facing the Toronto Maple Leafs — his former team for nearly seven NHL seasons — and he’s getting a bit anxious.

“I’ve been waiting for this one for a while,” Stajan said. “I want to get back to contributing for this hockey club and make sure we’re getting points.”

Through 25 games this season, Stajan has just one goal, but has contributed 15 assists.

He did get off to a rough start this season, injuring his shoulder during training camp and missing the first two weeks of the season. The 26-year-old (he turns 27 Dec. 19) won’t use the injury as an excuse for his disappointing numbers.

“I feel fine,” Stajan said. “When you miss training camp, you have to find your game. Health-wise, I’m as good as I’m going to be from that injury.

“It’s not any reason for me not playing.”

When Stajan was brought over from Toronto in the giant Dion Phaneuf trade, he was thought to be the centrepiece coming back.

He almost immediately signed a long-term contract extension but he has yet to live up to first-line status.

Sutter said Wednesday the Flames need more from Stajan if they hope to compete in the Western Conference.

“I expect him to come back and play the way we expect him to play,” Sutter said. “We’re in a situation where we need everyone playing well.

“We need guys bringing their A games and we need Matt to bring that when he’s in there.

“We’ve had conversations about it he knows he needs to get it back. He had a tough start to the year. He started from behind. He missed a good portion of the start of the season and he needs to catch up.”

The spotlight will be on Stajan more Thursday against the Leafs as the inevitable comparisons between he and Phaneuf will take place.

“There are ups and downs in everybody’s careers,” Stajan said. “There will be points when people say one thing, and then people do a complete 180.

“The only thing I can control is the way I play. I concentrate on playing good hockey. Me and (Niklas Hagman, the other remaining player in the deal) chuckled about it for a bit. If we start winning, everything will take care of itself.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ianbusby57


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