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Butler set to return to the lineup on Thursday

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
Chris Butler dressed for 68 games last season, scoring two goals and recording 15 points.

CALGARY, AB -- Chris Butler has gone through this before.

Thirty-two times, in fact, during the 2010-11 campaign as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

And while that season emotionally prepared him for being out of the lineup, it still isn't a pleasant experience to have to watch your teammates from the press box as a healthy scratch - something the St. Louis, MO product has been forced to do during the last two games.

"It's not an ideal situation missing games," the 26 year-old said Wednesday morning. "Nobody wants to not be in the lineup. When you're as competitive as the guys are in the locker room, you want to play. At the same time, when you're not playing, you have to continue to work hard.

"That's all you can worry about: how hard you work and making sure that you're still preparing for games, treating like practices like games and using that to get ready for the next one."

Last year, Butler routinely logged over 20 minutes a night playing alongside Jay Bouwmeester in a top-four role. But with a new coaching staff at the helm, last year's regular pairings and roles have been shaken up.

Butler started out the year skating with Dennis Wideman but has been since shifted out of a top-four position. While no one wants his spot in the lineup to be questionable, Butler has used his situation as a motivating factor this season.

"It makes you hungrier,” he said. “You never want to be in that situation."

The work and preparation Butler has put in over the past week will come in handy in his return to the lineup Thursday when the Flames host the Colorado Avalanche. Derek Smith, who slotted in for him during the last two games, will not play tomorrow night.

"We had good conversations and they didn't beat me to the ground, tell me that I was the worst player," Butler said of what the coaching staff told him when he was scratched. "There were some things they wanted me to work on and those are the things I'll continue to address."

One aspect that Hartley has stressed not just with Butler but with his entire defensive corps is jumping into the play. He wants an active defence that will provide plenty of offence throughout the season.

"The one thing that he's really focused on is he wants the six of us to have a green light,” he said. “But at the same time, you use the scoreboard as your coach and as the rule of thumb as to whether you're going to jump up in the play or not.

"It doesn't matter, he said, if you scored 10 goals or zero last year. He wants you being part of the rush. We have to make sure that we are continuing to jump up so that other teams have to respect that and maybe open up some other guys."

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