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Flames’ fan favourite Pelletier taking healthy scratch as ‘part of the process’

LAS VEGAS – Hours before the Calgary Flames snapped a six-year losing skid in Vegas on Thursday, the club almost broke the internet.

It was there that fans reacted angrily to head coach Darryl Sutter’s decision to scratch Jakob Pelletier and Walker Duehr as part of a significant shakeup of the lines.

Not only has Pelletier’s emergence as an NHLer been one of the team’s few bright spots in a disappointing season, but there’s plenty of sensitivity over his treatment dating back to his six-game stint in the press box after his initial call-up.

The coach’s disrespectful conduct after being asked about the rookie’s NHL debut gave the first-rounder even more support in the city.

However, it’s important to note Pelletier’s reaction Thursday did not mirror that of frustrated fans.

The 22-year-old once again demonstrated a maturity far beyond his years by being quick to point out the move could be a good thing.

“It’s part of the process,” said Pelletier, who has three goals and seven points in 22 games.

“We’re still young guys, so we just have to learn from the mistake you made.

“Lindy (Elias Lindholm) told me yesterday, actually, ‘It’s OK, it happened to me in my fourth year also.’

“Sometimes you have to take a step back to look at the game from up top, and see what you can to improve.

“Maybe when you come back in, you see the game a different way and it can help you.”

The mistake he was referring to was a missed assignment two nights earlier against Arizona that ultimately cost his club the game.

Abandoning the man-on-man approach the Flames take in overtime, he overcommitted on a forecheck at the Coyotes’ blueline, allowing Juuso Valimaki to spring free on a two-on-one ultimately finished off by Travis Boyd.

“That was just stupid,” he said of a gaffe that was pointed out by Sutter afterward.

“I feel bad.

“It was a big point for us, and I felt like the overtime goal was on me.

“I don’t think that’s why I’m (sitting), because of that play.

“It’s an accumulation of my last three or four games – I did not play my best the last three or four games.”

Sutter agreed, saying after Thursday’s 7-2 win in Vegas the mistake had nothing to do with his decision to leave him out of the lineup.

“Oh no, not a chance,” said Sutter, who inserted Adam Ruzicka, who centered a line between Nick Ritchie and Dillon Dube.

“I even thought about not playing him in Phoenix.

“I just think his energy had dropped.

“Quite honestly, I asked the coaches before the Phoenix game about the last two games at home, and you could see he didn’t have the energy.

“I wanted fresh guys in.”

As unpopular as the move was, it worked.

The team pieced together their most crucial win of the season to climb within three points of Winnipeg, the lads found their offensive touch, and the youngster took the news like a champ.

As refreshing a story as Pelletier has been, Sutter has also been quick to point out it’s not enough for him to simply fit in – he has to produce, given his lofty perch in the top six.

After back-to-back two-point games in late February, he has been held off the scoresheet in all seven of his games this month.

“I wish I could produce every game, but hopefully it’s going to happen when I get the nod to go back in again,” said Pelletier, who certainly seems to be more and more comfortable in the NHL.

“When you play with good players – like Lindy and Toff (Tyler Toffoli) and Huby (Jonathan Huberdeau), it’s easier to play the game.

“Every game you get more comfortable and more at ease.”

Fact is, Sutter has always worried about players, especially youngsters, getting too comfortable.

Thus, Pelletier sat.

The revamped lines saw Toffoli pick up two goals and four points alongside Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane. All told the trio had seven points, with Lindholm ending up plus-5.

Mikael Backlund scored a timely power-play goal, while also working well with Huberdeau and Blake Coleman, who scored twice, including the game-winner.

Nazem Kadri saw just 12 minutes of ice time on the fourth unit, between Trevor Lewis and Milan Lucic, while Ritchie and Ruzicka played with Dillon Dube, who scored his 18th of the year.

“Get some guys that are struggling to score moving around,” explained Sutter of the moves.

“Try to find a spot for them.”

Where that leaves Pelletier Saturday when the Stars roll into town is anyone’s guess.


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