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Derek Ryan and linemates Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube have been finding their stride

by TY PILSON @NHLFlames /

ST. LOUIS - Derek Ryan is ready for Movember to be over.

The soup-strainer on his top lip - not exactly Thomas-Magnum-like in its fullness or length - has become, how shall we say it, a little annoying to him.

It's a real love-hate relationship.

"One of those things - when December 1st rolls around, I'm pretty excited to shave it off," said Ryan with a broad grin yesterday. "But for now I'll relish it."

As one of the most consistent players for the Flames this season - especially of late - does he have any concern that taking the razer to it will have a Samson-esque effect on him and his play?

"I don't think so," he laughed. "I don't really have crazy superstitions like that."

Heading into Thursday night's game with the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues, Ryan is sixth on the Flames in points (10) and tied for sixth in goals (four) with captain Mark Giordano and Andrew Mangiapane.

His current line - flanked by Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube - were the most effective trio in the club's recent loss to the Avs.

They provided 13 of the team's 33 shots - Ryan scoring on a feed from Lucic after the big man won a puck battle on the boards. They have controlled play, getting pucks deep in the O-zone and keeping them there, and playing tenacious defence to create turnovers. 

All the things coaches ask players to do, and laud them when they execute, Bill Peters frequently giving the three kudos of late,.

The trio - put together for the tilt against Vegas last Sunday after Dube was called up from the Heat - have found that elusive chemistry that is so often hard to create in this game.

"I just try to play with whoever I'm given and same thing as last year, in me, Hath and Mang had that chemistry," said Ryan.

"You know, it's one of those things that when you're on the ice together you can read off each other and develop some chemistry. It's the same this year, when me and Looch and Dubs have kind of gelled together. It's one of those things you can't really put words to, you just feel it when you're on the ice."

You just bring the best out in each other.

"I think we've been really good," said Ryan "I think Dillon's done a great job as he was called up and jumped right in. He's had energy, speed - he's just a dynamic player, fun to play with and he's not playing his natural position at centre but he's able to have an impact and contain and hold onto the puck as a winger and make good plays on the wall, as well. 

"I feel like Looch has really found his game, too. He's found the simplicity in it and what he needs to do out there to bring the physicality element; to get on the forecheck, get pucks back and I just think he's been very effective on that."



Lucic - who's had his fair share of linemates over the years - agrees the perfect mix can often be elusive. 

"It's funny because, like you said, sometimes you think things would be a match in heaven and it doesn't work and sometimes you just throw it together and it works," said Lucic. "For me, I've always enjoyed playing with a right-handed centre - you know, I had Krejci and Jeff Carter, the two guys I've played with a lot before I came here to Calgary. I had a lot of success with them. So, maybe that's why we've had instant chemistry here. When Dillon got called up for the Vegas game, I think the three of us just kind of got thrown together and it's worked well for us so far. But just because we had a few games that worked well doesn't mean it gets any easier. We have to keep our foot on the gas pedal."

Being the centre, Ryan is the straw that stirs the drink for his line. Lucic admits he didn't realize just how skilled he was until he got to Calgary and saw him on a daily basis.

"He does all the little things well," explained Lucic. "He wins faceoffs, he's in the right spot defensively, and all those type of thigs. He brings that two-way type game which is a lot of fun to play with. I think that's what makes him such a useful player in this league."


Video: "I want to see some more energy some more vibrance."


While he's sixth in team scoring, he's 11th in shots. A quick glance at that could lead one to conclude he should be shooting more. 

Not always the case, says his head coach.

"He's a centreman and he's a playmaking centre," explained Bill Peters. "He gets the puck to his wingers. Everyone has their own skill set. You look at Mony, Mony is more of a goal-scoring centre. Doc is more of a playmaking centre. Doc, now on the powerplay, will come down the flank and shot pucks. So I have no real concern there. He's a smart player and he's going to make the right play. If the play is to keep it and shoot it, he will. If the play's to get it to an open player, he'll do that, too. He'll get his shots as we spend more time in the offensive zone and start playing better offensively as a group."  

That said, Ryan does admit it has crossed his mind.

"I mean, I've thought about that a lot of times in the off-season, maybe I need to shoot more," said Ryan. "There's a lot of situation where I'm trying to pass it and make that play, but I also just have to use my instincts. I mean, My hockey IQ has kind of gotten me to where I am now. So, in those situations, I just use my instincts and try not to think so much."

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