At the best of times, it would have been tough for Rasmus Andersson to sit in the press box and watch his Calgary Flames teammates play without him.
But watching them drop game after game after game while he was suspended for a high hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine was even worse.
Andersson was suspended for four games over the past week and a bit, which happened to coincide with the Flames going on a vicious slide and dropping four straight matchups by a combined score of 17-5.
And all he could do was just sit there and watch.
“You never want to watch as a player. It sucks when we’re losing and you’re not playing,” Andersson said. “It’s always tough sitting up there, you know how fast the game is and how much the players are trying and stuff like that.”
Fortunately, the final game of Andersson’s suspension was Sunday’s Heritage Classic defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium.
He’ll be available Wednesday for their next game, a home date with the Dallas Stars that starts at 6:30 p.m. for some bizarre reason.
And, make no mistake, getting Andersson back is big for the Flames.
Maybe he doesn’t solve every single one of the Flames’ myriad problems, but he is their No. 1 defenceman, routinely leading the team in ice time and has already put up three points through the five games he has played in this season.
Getting Andersson back might not suddenly turn the Flames into a Cup contender, but it definitely makes them a better team.
“Obviously with the stretch we’ve been through, you take our best defenceman out of the lineup and it’s going to affect you, for sure,” Flames head coach Ryan Huska said. “Raz is a guy who is going to affect every area of the game.
“Raz brings a certain level of swagger to every game, no matter what the situation is. If you’re down a goal, he’s going to push to get you back into the game; if you’re up a goal, he’s going to be pushing to make sure you stay up a goal. He’s just got a level of confidence and swagger to him that I think is impactful for the guys who sit around him.”
As for the suspension itself, Andersson was careful not to offer too much of an opinion on the NHL’s decision. Andersson appealed the suspension, but it was upheld by commissioner Gary Bettman, who said the hit “was delivered with Mr. Andersson’s elbow and resulted in significant contact with Mr. Laine’s head.”
“It’s obviously an unfortunate situation, you never want to see anyone get hurt,” Andersson said. “I feel sorry for Patrik to be hurt, it was never my intention. The hit itself, at the end of the day you’ve got to respect the league’s decision and it’s better that I respect the decision and not say much more.”
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With the suspension behind him, the focus for Andersson turns entirely to trying to help the Flames dig themselves out of the ugly hole they find themselves in only nine games into the season.
They’re 2-6-1 and have a minus-15 goal differential, both of which happen to be the second-worst marks in the NHL, ahead of only the lowly, rebuilding San Jose Sharks.
The time to start getting things right is now.
“I think we’re all looking at ourselves in the mirror and seeing what we can bring out,” Andersson said. “We know as a team, as individuals we need to be better. We’ve just got to get the swagger and the confidence to make plays back, and then we’ll take it from there. But it’s the swagger and confidence and make some plays and score some goals and have some fun.”
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org