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Peters said hopefuls have to step up tonight and show they belong on roster: "It's a big game for guys and their opportunities

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

It's a glimpse into the future - the opening-day roster close to set.

But not everyone is locked in.  

With less than a week left in the pre-season, the pressure is on for players to make their case.

"It's a big game for guys and their opportunities," head coach Bill Peters deadpanned following Tuesday's morning skate. "We talk about it all the time, and we've made (the players) aware that we need some production out of them.

"It starts tonight.

"We've got other guys that are knocking on the door that we want to have a look at and they're running out of time."

One of the players in need of a big night is Dillon Dube, who's had some quieter games lately and needs to get back to the pace and strong board play that made him successful early in camp.

"I think he's come off it a little bit," Peters critiqued. "His wall play has been poor, his D-zone awareness has been sub-standard. The things that nobody wants to talk about that allow you to be an everyday NHLer and earn the trust of the coaching staff, has slipped. 

"Now it's time to get it back."

For his part, Dube is left with similar observations based on how the past few games have gone. In fact, he's already met with the coaching staff numerous times to comb over the finer details of his defensive play, and is eager to put his learnings to the test this evening.

He appreciates the open line of communication with Peters, and agrees when that information is shared publicly, there are no surprises when it comes to expectations. 


Video: "It's an important game to earn opportunity" 



Both Dube and Peters know the sublimely talented 2016 pick is capable of more. 

Much more. 

"It's nice to hear that because it holds you accountable," Dube said. "Going back to the San Jose game, I said I needed to be better on the wall.

"Even last year, I think I even got off it a little bit. But I wasn't a full-time NHLer last year, and this year, I am (hoping to be).

"It's crunch time. I don't think there's any time for rust. It's full-time now and these are the biggest games for me. … It isn't hard to get up for games when you have a lot of pressure. Everyone fighting for a spot has that right now.

"I've got to bring a good game tonight."

Dube, a natural-born centre who played that position for much of his career so far, is adjusting to the defensive responsibilities that come with a winger's in-zone duty. 

Picking pucks off the wall, or receiving outlet passes and making a play into the middle takes practice. 

Takes time. 

But he knows he has the talent, the courage and the initiative, to do it well.

"When you play four years at centre, it's a little different," he said. "But you've got to be good at it. 

"It's a hard team to make, it's the NHL, and to stay here consistently is hard. It's a fun challenge to accept and something I'll work on, day-by-day."


Video: "Hard to not get up for games when you have pressure"


Dube will line up with Mark Jankowski in the middle and Austin Czarnik on the opposite flank. 

Dube finds himself in a similar position as Oliver Kylington, who will play on the third defensive pair with Rasmus Andersson, and is also fighting for work. With Michael Stone and PTO Andrew MacDonald also in the mix, the battle for that final spot on D is intensifying. 

Which makes tonight all the more vital, for all. 

"We'd like to see some consistency out of (Kylington)," Peters said. "Simple puck plays. Hard in the D zone.

"We've had these meetings in the last little bit and guys know what to expect. 

"There are other guys that are fighting for that opportunity and that ice time."

The Flames, who took the day off Monday, used this morning's tune-up as more of a full-fledged practice, giving their powerplay units, especially, ample time to find a rhythm. 

Following tonight's game, only two pre-season tilts remain - Thursday in San Jose and Saturday - at home - to the Edmonton Oilers, before the bullets fly for real.

It's clear. 

The Flames are all business now. 

"I thought we were sharp today," said captain Mark Giordano. "Guys had a lot of jump. As a player, coming into this last week before the season starts, you want to really want to sharpen up get the details back into your own individual play. 

"So, tonight's a big game."

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