SUN Hockey Pool

Stajan tries to stay positive

Matt Stajan. Photo by Mike Drew/QMI Agency

Matt Stajan. Photo by Mike Drew/QMI Agency

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

CALGARY - Matt Stajan received good news at Thursday’s practice.

When the Calgary Flames hit the ice, Stajan was skating on a line.

Stajan, a day after being a healthy scratch in his team’s 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, was in the middle of a trio which also included Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos.

Whether that translates to Stajan being back in action Friday night when the Flames play host to the St. Louis Blues remains to be seen, but the much maligned centre is trying to withstand this latest disappointment and not fall down in the dumps.

“All I can do is work hard and push myself, and when I get my chance, make sure I do my best,” said Stajan after the practice at Westside Recreation Centre. “It’s always a little bit of a shock when you’re not playing and expected to play. That’s the nature of the business, and we have a lot of guys here. I’m not the first guy to sit out, and it’s not the first time I’ve had to.

“I’m sure it won’t be my last.”

Stajan, the centre who came to Calgary as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade midway through the 2010-11 NHL season, had high hopes this season would turn the tide on his time with the Flames.

However, the offensive bounceback has yet to take place with just one point in seven games, and then came the indignity of being scratched so the team could dress seven defencemen Wednesday night in a 4-2 win over the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

To make it more of a daunting task for Stajan, who’s in the second season of a four-year, US$14-million contract, is the fact rookie Roman Horak’s career seems to be gaining steam while Mikael Backlund’s return from a broken finger suffered in the pre-season appears to be on schedule.

It all could add up to a Everest-sized mountain of frustration for Stajan, but he’s trying to avoid letting the emotional wringer get to him.

“You know what — you put the blinders on, come to the rink and focus on hockey and what you can do in that moment,” said Stajan, who — to his credit — has never hidden from questions from the media about his game. “If you start looking too much into things, it affects you. It’s best to stay on track, so you support your teammates.

“I’m not the only guy sitting out, and we’re a team here with the same goal — to win. It’s not about one guy or two guys sitting out.”

Flames head coach Brent Sutter said “there’s a chance” the Flames will again deploy a lineup Friday night against the Blues with seven defenceman and 11 forwards, which doesn’t bode well for Stajan.

However, Stajan believes he’s done much of what’s been asked of him.

“Obviously, offensively we’d like to have more points and contribute more, but I’m doing the little things and sometimes (offence) takes time. Hopefully, it comes sooner than later, and when I get my chance, I get on a roll,” Stajan said. “I’ve really tried to focus on faceoffs this year. When I’m play with Jacks, T.K. Or P.L (Pierre-Luc Leblond) — whoever I’m playing with — I’m doing what I can to keep the game simple. It’s things like getting the pucks deep because those guys are good at getting in on the forecheck and working the puck down low and shifting momentum on the game.”

Stajan admitted he’s been his own worst enemy on the ice, at times, too.

“Maybe I’ve been playing too safe — trying not to make mistakes — but when you’re playing the role I’ve been playing, our team can’t afford for me to be a liability.

“We all work hard, and you have to try to get things going.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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