Only a week and a half ago, it seemed like Nazem Kadri was facing a barrage of questions about his lack of offensive production on a near-daily basis.
Times do appear to have changed.
In Kadri’s last three games, the Calgary Flames forward has put up four points. That’s a considerable uptick from what he managed in the first eight games of the season, when he only managed a solitary assist.
Throughout his early season slump, Kadri insisted that the points would come if he just stuck to his game.
After being proven right, his tune hadn’t changed as the Flames prepared for Tuesday’s tilt with the Nashville Predators (7 p.m.).
“It’s nice, but the only difference is the pucks are hitting the back of the net,” Kadri said. “That could have been the result at the beginning of the season, but the fact is, it wasn’t. That’s the adversity you’ve got to fight as an athlete and a professional hockey player. Sometimes you feel super hot and sometimes you’re cold and it’s just the way it goes. It’s nice to finally see some pucks go in, though.”
Getting Kadri going is extremely necessary for the Flames. As their second-line centre and a fixture on their top power-play unit, the team needs him to be productive — plain and simple.
But while putting points on the board matters, head coach Ryan Huska was quick to point out that the team was never particularly worried about Kadri’s early season scoring slump.
“His play hasn’t changed from, really, Day 1,” Huska said after Monday’s high-tempo practice. “His work ethic has been there. He’s been a guy that’s gone up and down in terms of points and when he puts them on the board. You’d be concerned if you saw the work ethic dip, that’s a different situation, but I’ve felt like his work has been as consistent if not more consistent than any of our forwards in regards to how he’s skating and competing.
“You did feel it was a matter of time before things would start to go for him.”
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Ideally, the Flames would probably love to see Kadri return to being a point-a-game player the way he was in 2021-22 when he won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche and put up 87 points in 71 games.
He joined the Flames the following summer, signing a seven-year, $49-million contract and putting up 56 points last year.
When he got off to a slow start this season, it had some fearing the worst. He’s minus-12 so far this year, tied with teammate Jonathan Huberdeau for the worst mark in the league.
But then, Kadri scored in the Heritage Classic.
The Flames then put rookie Connor Zary and Yegor Sharangovich on his wings, and the three have looked like they’ve got some natural chemistry together in games against the Dallas Stars and Saturday’s win over the Seattle Kraken.
“Just trying to lead the way and guide them as much as possible and communicate,” Kadri said. “That’s what makes a good line, is everybody being on the same page and, obviously, Zary’s got the skill-set and Shark can fill in those spots and he’s good on the walls. It’s a good combination.”
The trio has been arguably the Flames’ best line for the past two games and that bodes well as they prepare for a stretch that offers up a few winnable games over the next two weeks.
For Kadri, it’s about just keeping the momentum going. He was happy with the way he was playing when the points weren’t coming, at least publicly, and he insisted Monday that finally getting a few wasn’t going to change the way he approached his game, either.
“Of course, you want to contribute,” Kadri said. “It’s one of those things in hockey where sometimes they’re going to come and sometimes they come in bunches and sometimes you get cold. It’s a game of momentum and when you’re on a good run you want to stay on it.”
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 email@example.com