CALGARY - Matt Duchene had a simple reason for remaining calm through his early season struggles.
The Colorado Avalanche rising star had been through it a year ago.
Not only did Duchene pull out of his slump to kick off the 2010-11 season — as he’s done this year — but he learned something valuable at that time thanks to Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
When last season was nearing the quarter pole, Duchene was struggling in the goal-scoring department, with just two tallies in the first 18 games.
Near the end of his slump, he and the Avalanche were facing the Flames, and he spotted how Iginla was in a similar situation.
“I don’t pay a ton of attention to stats, but I’d heard about Jarome, ‘He’s getting assists and getting points, but he’s not scoring,’” Duchene recalled after Saturday’s morning skate in anticipation of facing the Flames in Denver. “I was in the same boat and figured out everybody goes through it. Really, if he goes through it, why can’t I?
“I knew he was going to finish with 30-plus (goals) and he finished with 43, so I knew I could still have a good season. It’s encourage-ment. You know it’s not just you.
“It made me feel a little bit better.”
Right after that early November game, which the Flames won, Duchene kicked off an offensive run and finished the season with 27 goals and 67 points.
The 20-year-old centre from Haliburton, Ont., who was drafted third overall in 2009, was even put on the fourth line a couple of weeks ago amidst another slow start, but headed into Saturday night’s clash with four goals and four assists in the previous seven outings.
“That’s hockey. One game you can be on the fourth line, struggling, and the next game you get a hat trick,” said Duchene, who netted five goals and 12 points in the first 16 games this season. “It’s the ups and down, and it’s the same for every team. When we went on our first road trip, people around here were concerned about how we would do, but we came back 5-1 and were the best team in hockey.
“First, I had to pump our team’s tires, and when we came back, I had to play it down. It’s the roller-coaster ride of the season.”
Funny, but now, Iginla could probably use Duchene’s season to remind him how things can turn, if his own history isn’t enough.
Iginla took to the ice in Denver with four goals, eight points and a team-worst minus-7 ranking.
Duchene can guess how much Iginla is taking.
“At the end of the day, you know he’ll have 30-plus goals at the minimum,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what he has right now. You know he’ll take off at some point.
“Hopefully, he doesn’t break out (Saturday night).”