The evidence of Curtis Glencross’ frustrations can likely be found on Anton Babchuk’s body.
After sitting out Thursday’s 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs as a healthy scratch, the Calgary Flames forward went out with a purpose in Friday’s practice.
Although the left-winger isn’t 100% sure why he was sat, he tried raising his game against teammates in practice. He pounded Babchuk into the boards during one drill, threw an elbow the defenceman’s way that missed and then gave him a shove.
“I guess I have to go battle harder and compete harder,” Glencross said about being scratched. “Obviously, they feel I’m the least battler out there.
“I guess that’s their opinion. I have to work hard in practice and go from there.”
With 14 healthy forwards and only a dozen slots, a couple of players need to sit every night. Veteran centre Craig Conroy is one of the constants on reserve, but a series of other veterans have taken a seat in recent weeks.
David Moss drew the short straw more than a week ago, while first-line centre Matt Stajan sat for a pair before returning Thursday.
It’s clear the coaching staff wanted to send a message to Glencross that they need more from him than just his seven goals and five assists in 30 games.
“We want to see energy and emotion in his game,” said Flames assistant coach Dave Lowry. “Speed is his best asset. When he’s skating well and playing physical, he creates opportunities. We have to get him back to that level.”
Glencross is just the latest Flames player the coaching staff felt they need to light a fire under, and the message is simple.
“It’s the same thing we say to Matt Stajan,” Lowry said. “We need more. We expect more. The difficult thing is having high expectations for a player. Curtis will get back in the lineup, and he has to be a good player for us. He plays an important role for us. He’s a key part of this hockey club.”
Glencross is on pace for a career-high in markers after a 15-goal campaign last season.
And there was a tone of anger in his voice answering as to why it’s him sitting and not someone else.
“Don’t know,” he said. “It’s something I have to put behind me. When I get put back in the lineup, I will go play.
“I’m guessing it’s competing. Obviously, I’m not doing something right. I have to go do my job, I guess.”
Lowry was a dreaded healthy scratch a few times during his long NHL career, and he knows what it’s like to be watching his team play.
“You have to re-evaluate your game,” he said. “You have to look at yourself and sometimes have to be a hard critic about where your game is at.
“We’ve had discussions with the players. We have different, and this is a last resort. At the end of the day, we need to make sure we’re dressing our 20 best players.”