MONTREAL — If there’s one thing Brendan Morrison has learned in his 14 NHL seasons, it’s to multitask.
One night he’s tasked with shutting down the opponent’s top line, the next he’s skating on his own team’s top trio.
It was the latter for the 35-year-old Flames centre Saturday night in Toronto, where he played 21:01 — the second-most minutes of his season — between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.
“It’s been a while since I played that many minutes,” the veteran said in the team’s hotel lobby.
He later joked how badly he needed the recovery day Sunday to rest after finding out at game time he’d play with the top line.
“There was a time when I averaged that many minutes for a couple years in a row,” Morrison laughed.
In those days, he was a member of the Vancouver Canucks’ West Coast Express line, posting anywhere from 50-70 points with Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi flanking him.
The points don’t come as frequently these days, but he’s a different player on and off the ice.
Not that he can’t contribute. On the contrary, he’s in an interesting position with the Flames. He couldn’t get an NHL contract all summer until the Flames inked him right before the regular-season began after the Canucks released him from a tryout. Now, he’s likely one of the team’s most movable commodities at the trade deadline.
His contributions these days, however, are just as important in the last minute of games in the faceoff circle, and as part of the penalty killing unit, as they once were in the goals and assists department. And Morrison is OK with that.
“I’m just really trying to enjoy the year,” he said. “I’d be enjoying it a lot more if we were winning more games.
“I never anticipated last summer to go the way it did, and it did, so I tell myself every day, ‘If this is going to be my last year playing, then I’m going to enjoy it.’ That’s just kind of been my approach.
“Offensively, I’m in a drought,” said Morrison, who has one assist in his last nine games and no goals in 14 but is playing strong defensively.
“I haven’t scored many goals lately. In the past, that was something that would probably really get to me and make me not enjoy the game.”
This year, he’s looking for other challenges to make sure he’s contributing in other ways. Things like taking those important faceoffs — he sent one all the way down the ice in the dying seconds of a 3-2 win over the Senators in Ottawa Friday night — or killing penalties with passion.
He is bothered by the lack of goals, knowing that more of them would mean more wins for a struggling team, but he doesn’t let it affect him the way he once did.
“There were days in the past I would just beat myself up for it,” he said. “I’m not happy about it, don’t get me wrong ... but I’m not going to sit here and beat myself up over it anymore. I think that comes with maturity.”