CALGARY, AB --
BYRON TORCHES VARLAMOV FOR HIS FIRST AS A FLAME
When the Calgary Flames recalled Paul Byron
on Nov. 10, it was for two purposes.
First of all, he was needed to help fill the void up front. Veteran center Brendan Morrison was placed on the injured reserve due to insufficient rehabilitation on his knee. The 36 year-old underwent surgery in the off-season and felt he was ready to play last month but as time wore on, it became apparent his knee wasn't where it needed to be. In addition to Morrison's absence, the Flames opted to place winger Niklas Hagman on waivers after the early-season struggles.
Secondly, Byron was brought up with the hope he could help fellow rookie TJ Brodie
inject some youthful enthusiam into a squad that has looked downright disinterested this season.
While he was held off the scoresheet on Friday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Byron's boundless energy and speed helped carry his club to a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday evening.
His performance in Denver doesn't shock head coach Brent Sutter.
"Energy, emotion … Come in and be the good players they are," Sutter told the Calgary Sun of the expectations he has for Byron and Brodie. "They’re here because they’re playing well in Abby, and we can use all that. We can use all the energy we can get."
In his first season with the Heat, Byron has recorded one goal and four points in nine games. Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward has made mention of the Ottawa native's defensive progression on more than one occasion, saying the forward can be trusted in all three zones and in any situation.
That kind of praise is like music to Sutter's ears as the Flames bench boss will never shy away from stating his belief that once a player becomes defensively responsible, offensive chances will come.
His two-way game has been on display in his first two outings with the team. In Chicago, where captain Jarome Iginla
ended the game with a minus-three rating after playing 16:08, Byron came out with an even rating in his 11:13 of ice time.
He built off that performance in Denver and scored his first in a Flames jersey at 2:06 of the first period. He zoomed into the Avs zone and dished the puck off to blueliner Derek Smith
, who had leaped into the rush. Byron slipped behind defenceman Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson and was wide open when Smith threw it back to him. He sent a quick wrist shot over Seymon Varlamov's glove to open the scoring.
After such a strong start to his career with the Flames, expectations have risen. That kind of pressure can be daunting but Byron is using it as a motivator.
"In Buffalo, I don’t think anyone expected me to play in NHL games, especially in my second year of pro and being a sixth-round pick.
"Here, they have high expectations of me - really positive things - and they believe in me and expect big things from me. It’s something that keeps me working."