SUN Hockey Pool

Stajan's chance to shine

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:09 PM ET

Matt Stajan’s reaction when he scored early in Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks spoke volumes.

Stajan, who went through 11 games in his latest goal-scoring drought, batted a rebound past Roberto Luongo to make it 2-0 and celebrated by slamming into the glass at the end boards.

You could understand the emotional release considering the offensive troubles which have beset Stajan essentially from the moment he was acquired by Calgary from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Dion Phaneuf trade midway through last season.

The Flames and their faithful had better hope to see more of the same from Stajan.

Not necessarily the smacks into the glass, but the goal scoring.

With David Moss suffering an ankle injury in Monday’s practice, the already-thin Flames centre corps took a major hit.

The onus will soon be on Stajan to take a bigger role.

The same goes for Olli Jokinen and young Mikael Backlund.

But — at this junction in the season — it’s time for Stajan to step up, quite likely as the centre for Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay on the top line.

At first, it would seem the obvious move is to put Jokinen into that slot. However, Jokinen has settled into a strong two-way role on a line with Curtis Glencross and Rene Bourque, and we know the past history when he and Iginla skate on the same line — not much happens.

As much as Backlund’s future should be among the top two lines, it may be a bit early to put him in that position.

Which brings us to Stajan, whose six goals and 29 points in 65 games this season are nowhere near the expectations of a player in the first season of a four-year, US$14-million contract.

Still, the Flames will be turning more to him. The club doesn’t have a choice.

The knee injury suffered by Brendan Morrison two weeks ago has him out indefinitely, and Daymond Langkow continues to skate as he recovers from a fractured vertebra, but whether he ever returns to play isn’t certain.

You can’t help but think the Flames would like to go back in time, change their decisions and not have Craig Conroy retire, since there aren’t any top-line centres in the minors right now, either.

Without knowing how serious Moss’s injury was, or how the dominos were going to fall, Stajan was more concerned with his teammate’s situation than his own spot.

However, you know he’ll expect a few more taps on the shoulder.

“You come with the same mentality, be ready to go for the game,” he said. “There’s going to be some extra minutes. I know Dave plays 15 minutes and those minutes have to be filled. Whoever is called up will see some and I’m sure we’ll see some special-teams minutes handed out and the centremen will take a few extra draws.”

It would be nice for Stajan to step up for his team when they need it.

He could answer plenty of critics by breaking out in a big way.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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