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WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED

Derek Ryan is doing it all as versatile centre with offensive upside, and as a mentor to those around him

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Five-year-old Zane Ryan tucked in close as intrusive cameras and bobbing voice recorders and bloodshot-eyed media mongrels descended for a few minutes of his pop's time.

When asked who his favourite Flame might be (hint, hint), Zane went shyly silent. Then piped up, clinging ever tighter:

"Daddy."

On the heels of a major offensive night Tuesday, Derek Ryan was an immensely popular figure outside the immediate family, too.

He goes by Doc, does Ryan.

And in the trade, refer to him as a general practitioner. He can cure what ails ya.

"We've been healthy - knock on wood," lauded GM Brad Treliving, giving a rap to the wall leading from the dressing room to the hallway, "but Doc can do so many things.

"He can play the powerplay. He can kill penalties. He takes crucial draws. He's a natural centre who can play the wing. He's a right shot.

"You can bounce him all over.

"He's sorta like the grout filler. You can have all the beautiful trimmings on your house but if somebody isn't filling in the grout?

"Well, you're in bad shape. You're in a heap of trouble.

"He's in there caulking it up and grouting it out and doing all the messy jobs.

"And one thing that's underestimated about Doc is his skill. He's extremely smart."

Video: "That's the strength of our lineup, that depth"

Ryan's three-point turn versus the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday grabbed him some welcome, justified attention in the Johnny/Monny/Gio world we inhabit.

Then again, being off in wings, away from the glare of the centre-stage spotlight, doesn't bother him in the least.

"A pretty quiet, low-key guy,'' said D-man Noah Hanifin, a teammate of Ryan's in Carolina. "He does the little things and sometimes those go unrecognized. An important defensive zone draw? He's out there winning it.

"The last month or so he's played some outstanding hockey for us."

Any recognition - and more and more has come his way as the season's ground along - is well and truly earned, as Ryan's contributions continue to grow.

"Every day," said assistant coach Martin Gelinas, "you know what you're going to get. Every day he's going to do the right thing. He's predictable, but in the right way. Defensively he's going to be on the right side of the puck. Offensively he's got some upside.

"Not a big frame. Just gets its done.

"It's a good story. At the beginning of the season, he was playing the right way but we just didn't know enough about him. But keep doing it, and people appreciate what you bring to the table."

Video: NJD@CGY: Ryan, Gaudreau score three quick goals

As the GM noted, that's a smorgasbord of valuable qualities.

"It's nice," said Ryan, a man clearly with his priorities in order. "A good feeling, for sure. It's awesome'' - dad gave Zane a fatherly squeeze - "to have my kids here. He's not quite old enough to realize how cool it is to be in an NHL dressing room, understand that.

"But at the same time it's kinda what life is all about, what's important."

Ryan's burgeoning on-ice collaboration alongside Garnet Hathaway and Andrew Mangiapane has given the Flames more options. Reliable, honest, and on their day, offensively telling.

"Maybe we haven't scored goals every game," reckoned Ryan, "but we're producing momentum, doing the right things and playing in the offensive zone. That's huge for us as a line, confidence-wise, and the team.

"I just feel more comfortable. I'm comfortable in the role I've been given here. Obviously it's not the same as in the past years in Carolina but at the same time it's a role I can play well.

"There's an adjustment any time you go to a new team. I think that's obvious. It goes without saying. But at the same time, I've been more comfortable being here in Calgary, with this group, in the role I've been put in. I've found ways to tweak my game, adapt and be effective than before.

"That's how I've been my whole career - find different ways to produce and be an asset to a winning team."

Video: "Doc's dialled in"

Having been part of Ryan's reasoning for signing here after their years together in Raleigh, N.C., Flames boss Bill Peters isn't surprised in the slightest.

"He's not going to rock the boat at all. He's a great kid, a good team and he's going to fit in with the guys. But it takes time to get comfortable. Any time you move it's a little unsettling, two young kids.

"He had a real good night (Tuesday). Eighty-two percent on faceoffs, had the puck a lot, made a real nice playing driving the back post on that 2-on-1 goal. Just a smart guy. Knows how to play.

"Everyone's got a lot of confidence in him. Just a versatile guy."

The Stanley Cup Playoffs loom. This will mark the first journey into the most exhilarating time of any season for the 32-year-old jack-of-many-trades known to one and all as Doc.

Video: "The path that he's had ... it's pretty special"

"I look forward to the post-season here in Calgary," acknowledged the cure-what-ails-ya general practitioner. "The Saddledome's a pretty loud place during the regular season, but I'd imagine during the post-season … all over the city, the Red Mile, I've heard all the stories about it so it'll be pretty fun to take part in that.

"It means a lot. But that's not the end goal. I feel coming here, signing (here) as a UFA, I wasn't choosing Calgary because I thought: 'Oh, this is a playoff team.' It was more: 'I think this can be a Stanley Cup team and we can do something special

"So if it's just making the playoff it's fun but it's not the goal for myself or anyone else in this room.

"You get to the point where you've made the playoffs an it's just a little taste of it.

"You want it all.

"You get more thirsty, more hungry, for more success in the playoffs.

"I think any hockey player would agree with me."

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