At his infuriating best, Ryan Lomberg is about as welcome as an outbreak of psoriasis. 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds of bad-to-worse news. Continually poking, prodding, provoking.
"Believe me,'' complained the abrasive left winger with a frustrated sigh, "I tried to stir it up.
"Man, did I try …
"There must be a new rule in the league, that you're not allowed to fight.
"Some of those gloves seem to be sewn on."
On a night when a disappointing few of those auditioning stepped to the fore and made a strong statement of big-league employment intent, the Fifty-Something Line of Lomberg (No. 56 in your game program), Tanner Glass (51) and Dillon Dube (59) did their darnedest to stick out.
While others chose to be passive, apparently just wanting to fit in, Lomberg, Glass and Dube made it a point to make themselves noticed.
"I thought every shift they had an impact, in some way, shape or form,'' assessed Flames' coach Glen Gulutzan, in the wake of a 5-3 pre-season loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "That was our best line, hands down, tonight.
"One guy's on a PTO, the other two are contacted guys, one's American league, the other's a junior player. They're trying to stick around."
There were other flashes of NHL readiness, glimpses of gold. Goaltender John Gillies produced a save for the old post-career scrapbook, a 'What the …?!' behind-the-back glove theft in which he contorted himself Cirque de Soleil style to snare a deflected puck destined for the back of his net. Centre Mark Jankowski, so solid in Monday's split-squad appearance, snapped home a lovely Kris Versteeg set-up for his second goal in two pre-season games.
But other than that …
Talk of positives kept rounding back to the Fifty-Something Line.
Right off the hop, first shift, Glass embeds Canuck defenceman Jalen Chatfield into the corner woodwork then hightails it to the side of the net to cash a sublime pass from Dube for a 1-0 Calgary lead.
In short order, Lomberg nimbly deflects a Rasmus Andersson set-up behind Canucks' starter Thatcher Demko at 5:48 to double the advantage.
Video: Lomberg tips Andersson's dish past Demko
"It started with our first shift,'' said Glass. "We set the tone with good forechecks. We were together in our plan. We wanted to play a north-south game and a lot of chances came off being physical.
"You can kinda tread water and try and convince yourself you're doing OK but unless you make a statement it's not going to go your way.
"Dube provided a good offensive patience for us and Lombo and I are obviously crash-and-bang players. I thought it worked out well tonight."
Collectively, the trio finished plus-4 with seven shots on net and four points.
"We tried to focus on keeping things simple, playing to our strengths - our speed, our down-low game,'' said Lomberg. "I thought for the most part, we did that.
"Ultimately we couldn't help out more. We would've liked to, but we started the game pretty strong."
Individually and as a line, they certainly didn't do their chances any harm Wednesday.
"We brought energy, that was our role,'' reckoned Dube, the Kelowna Rockets' star. "When things weren't going right, we tried to bang bodies and get pucks in deep. I thought we did a good job of that."
And the comfort level of being bookended by a couple of rambunctious types?
"It gives me confidence that if someone's going to touch me, it's not going to go well for them."
With half of the Canucks in China for their two-game pre-season set against LA Kings, Wednesday provided a prime opportunity for a handful of serious Flame hopefuls to make hay, to shine.
"The time is ticking here, as every game goes by,'' said Gulutzan. "You can see what happens when you shut down a degree. That's all it really is, a degree. I thought they out-battled us from the second, completely. Its not a light switch. it's hard to get back on. I thought we played better in the third but still we lost our edge.
"We didn't create a lot."
What they did manage to manufacture arrived mostly from Lomberg, Glass and Dube.
Now they wait. The playing is easy. The waiting … not so much.
Lomberg spoke for all three, saying:
"I try to do my best, every day. I want to be here, obviously. There are still a lot of guys around, so you don't really know where you're going to end up.
"So I just give my all, every chance I get, and hope they don't call me in for a meeting the next day."