A fourth line that can do more than just tread water is a pipe dream for some.
For head coach Bill Peters and the Flames, it’s an everyday luxury.
Dillon Dube, Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway are doing everything right on both sides of the puck, spreading the wealth, and have been impact players every time they’ve taken the ice in recent games.
Not many can say that.
And certainly not with the kind of conviction Peters does when asked about their value.
“They’ve been real good,” said the bench boss prior to this evening’s tilt with the Dallas Stars. “I think they’re all finding a way to play to their identity and contribute in various ways.”
Jankowski, in particular, is on a bit of a heater with four points (3G, 1A) in his last three games, including a two-goal effort in Sunday’s impressive road win over the Arizona Coyotes.
“I didn’t start the season the way I wanted to points-wise, but I think it’s been coming along pretty well,” Jankowski said. “I’m coming to work every day and working hard, with the right attitude. You keep doing that, you keep doing things the right way, and the production will come.”
Jankowski, Dube and Hathaway are quickly gaining the trust of the coaching staff, and are seeing increased minutes in a variety of situations, including the penalty kill, as a result.
Hathaway’s work on the PK led to a Noah Hanifin goal on Sunday, as the gritty winger bowled his way to the blue paint and created all kinds of chaos for the hapless Arizona defenders. This, after single-handedly killing a too-many-men penalty earlier in the period with a strong, 200-foot clear, and by pinning the puck deep in the corner boards, and not allowing the offence to pry it free.
“All of us who are on the kill take a lot of pride in that,” said Jankowski, who scored the second of his two goals by dragging a loose puck through a maze of bodies in front, before slipping it five-hole on Antti Raanta. “We take a lot of pride in our kill and being able to hound the puck like that in their end. That disrupts their powerplay, and more importantly, kills a lot of time.
“From being on the powerplay in previous years, you know how much that can take away from you. Anytime you can disrupt them a little bit, you try and do that.”
In all, Jankowski played 2:54 of his 11:21 shorthanded. Hathaway? 1:58.
Only Elias Lindholm had more shorthanded minutes among forwards with a staggering 4:06
All of it combined led to a perfect night on special teams. The Coyotes went 0-for-4 with the powerplay, and surrendered three shorthanded goals to the Flames in the process.
“Just watching that was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen,” Dube said. “Those guys work their tails off and make an impact like that on a game? You know you’re doing something right.”
Dube doesn’t play PK, but his overall ice time is nearly identical to the hard-nosed duo, with all of it being played at even strength. He, too, has rewarded the coaching staff with two points his last three games, including his first NHL goal in last week’s victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
“Each game I think we’re earning more and more,” he said. “It’s that trust, and you’ve got to respect that from the coaching staff.
“It’s hard on the road. We don’t control the matchups and the other team can throw anyone they want out there against us. For the coaches to have that trust in us, to put us out there in any number of situations, it’s definitely a good thing for us. I think we’ve been doing well with the opportunity we’ve been given.
“Every step we step on the ice, we’re trying to do things the right way and show not only the coaches, but our teammates, too, that we can be relied upon to handle the responsibility.”
They thrive on it.
And with a team known for its hard, heavy game, making their first visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome, they’re eager to strut their stuff again.
“I couldn’t ask for better linemates,” Dube said. “I think we complement each other very well.
“I got a chance last year in the pre-season to play with (Jankowski). Right then and there, I could tell this guy was a player. He’s easy to play with, he’s a big guy who really protects the puck and creates a lot of space for me.
“They both do.
“That’s why we’ve been so effective.”