You won’t ever catch an NHLer complaining — on the record, off the record, in the back-seat of an Uber, whatever — about a four-game win streak.
Calgary Flames right-winger Austin Czarnik is certainly no exception, even though it must be a bit harder to enjoy a heater as a healthy scratch.
“It can be mentally draining when you’re not playing. It does suck,” Czarnik said. “But then when the team wins, it just makes it that much better. It is mentally draining at times, but you just have to push through it. And then once you push through it, you’re going to come out better on the other side.”
Flames head coach Bill Peters has, understandably, been sticking with the same personnel as his squad has sizzled to back-to-back-to-back-to-back victories.
He could be forced to juggle his lineup, however, for Wednesday’s date with the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center (8:30 p.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).
Rookie buzz-saw Dillon Dube was smushed into the boards from behind on his first shift of Saturday’s home victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and remains in the NHL’s concussion protocol.
It’s unknown if the 20-year-old forward — officially considered day-to-day — even travelled with his teammates to California.
If Dube is a no-go against the Ducks, Czarnik would be dusted off to skate alongside Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway on the fourth line.
“You never want to see anybody get hurt, but it’s something that happens and I’m hoping that if I get in, I can make the most of it,” Czarnik said prior to Tuesday’s jet-away. “It’s a good opportunity for me to try to install myself in the lineup right now. The team is going good right now, and we just need to keep it up.”
There was a lot of excitement around the Saddledome about the summer signing of the 25-year-old Czarnik, a guy Calgary’s brass had targeted as a could-be breakout candidate after he nearly won the American Hockey League scoring crown in 2017-18. (Czarnik piled up 69 points on behalf of the Providence Bruins, just two back of the overall league lead.)
We’re barely a month into the regular season, but the new guy in No. 27 is still trying to find his fit in Cowtown.
Czarnik has one goal — an empty-netter — and two assists in eight appearances this fall. The 5-foot-9, 170-lb. speedster has been a healthy scratch seven times already, more sit-outs than any other Flames forward.
He was last spotted in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals.
“I think, so far, I’ve done a decent job,” Czarnik said. “I don’t feel like I’ve screwed up too much. I feel like I’ve been in the right spots, for the most part. I had a meeting with Wardo (associate coach Geoff Ward) and we went over some of my shifts against Washington, and I just felt like I was doing a lot of right things. But obviously when you lose, something has to switch.”
Likewise, when you win, there are rarely changes.
Which is why Czarnik and suddenly-spare-defenceman Michael Stone have been playing the waiting game during this spree of success. (The Flames are currently carrying eight rearguards, but Dalton Prout has only suited up once so far.)
“The things I have been focusing on are just being positive, stay positive and then just work hard every single day,” Czarnik said. “That’s what I’m trying to do — work on little things, try to watch more video, understand what I can do better. So that when the time comes, I can be ready to roll.
“I want to be the best I can be, and I’m still going to try to do that. I’m still going to try to be the best player here that I can be and try to help this team out.”
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