Scratches big part of Sutter's arsenal

Flames head coach Brent Sutter has some words for his players during a game against the Blue...

Flames head coach Brent Sutter has some words for his players during a game against the Blue Jackets in Calgary, Alberta on December 13, 2010. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:05 PM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Urgency didn’t kick in until the third period, with the game all but out of reach.

Motivation still plagues the inconsistent Calgary Flames. That was evident in a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild Saturday night at the Saddledome, and the last motivational weapon in the hands of head coach Brent Sutter will surely be aimed at a new player for Monday night’s NHL rematch with the Wild in St. Paul.

Curtis Glencross sat the last one out — his second consecutive game as a healthy scratch — but another body is expected to keep Flames veteran Craig Conroy company in the press box.

Popular guesses include Ales Kotalik, who didn’t see a single shift in the third period of Saturday’s contest and has struggled to re-discover his fine pre-season form since returning to the lineup from a serious knee injury that kept him out of the first 26 regular-season games.

In seven contests, the 31-year-old Czech has registered no points, a minus-one rating and 11 shots and is averaging 11:11 per game — less than fourth-line guys David Moss and Tom Kostopoulos.

With a slight hitch in his step and a brace to contend with during games, you have to wonder if he’s still struggling physically. If not, then the mental side of his recovery has to be questioned as well.

With rumours of the Sutters — Brent and his GM brother Darryl — being at odds at times over who sits out, it will be interesting to see if another US$3-million-plus player finds himself on the sidelines the way Matt Stajan did for a pair before clashing with his former team in a big win over the Toronto Maple Leafs this week.

He snapped an 18-game goal drought Saturday in the losing cause against the Wild and has been one of the more consistent Flames in two contests since his benching.

Just the threat of one of being a healthy scratch might have been enough for Olli Jokinen, who until Saturday’s sluggish outing had been on fire for a couple of weeks after rumours of him watching from above started swirling.

But there are plenty of options for coach Sutter to sit. This team isn’t short on candidates when it comes to inconsistency.

Moss and Mikael Backlund have both been victims of the coach’s ire at times this season, and one of them could easily be headed back to the press box.

Backlund played just 33 seconds in the third period Saturday night, and the 21-year-old’s development is coming along more slowly than most hoped.

But sitting someone making bigger money than the young rookie might have more of an impact on the rest of the team.

If coach Sutter wants to make a statement, he could sit Rene Bourque for a game in the near future if the big winger continues to battle his up-and-down issues.

Alex Tanguay hasn’t been overly productive of late, and Niklas Hagman has also been stale in large spurts.

With every loss, valuable points are slipping away along with any hopes of making the playoffs.

With that comes the increasing likelihood of change before the trade deadline, sooner, or after another disappointing season.

No players, coaches or management figures are immune.

For now, the biggest changes will start with the nightly lineup.

And with a Flames roster still littered with inconsistent individuals, it’s no wonder the team struggles to put together consistent efforts.

And victories.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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