Where Does Flames’ Phillips Fit? Looks Like The Fourth Line
Matthew Phillips will play his second NHL game for the Calgary Flames on Friday in Columbus against Johnny Gaudreau and the Blue Jackets.
There are two undersized hockey talents in the spotlight when the Calgary Flames meet the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
But this isn't Johnny Gaudreau versus Matthew Phillips. The former, an undeniable NHL superstar who left the Flames for the Jackets in free agency this summer, will be playing top minutes, anchoring the powerplay and flanked by the team's other best offensive weapons. The latter is set to play his second NHL game. Indications from those on the scene in Columbus suggest he'll skate with Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis on the fourth line, and that Phillips was not on either powerplay unit.
#Flames forward lines at morning skate in Columbus …
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) December 9, 2022
That could change, however.
Rumour has it Lewis is nursing either a minor injury and that the move to waive Kevin Rooney yesterday could mean a second recall from the farm. Perhaps Radim Zohorna. But for now, the morning skate had Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter leaving his top three lines intact — which seems like a smart move since the Flames are coming off a 4-1-0 homestand.
Sutter hasn't been shy in his hesitation regarding Phillips, and told reporters again Friday morning that size matters.
"He’s an awesome kid, he’s got an awesome skillset and he’s a really good competitor. But the next part is his size," Sutter said. "That part is clear.
"Playing a team with good size tonight so it’s always an issue."
You can almost hear the groans from Flames fans who have been aching for a chance to see Phillips in some NHL games. He leads the American Hockey League scoring race with 15 goals and 30 points in 20 games so far. And while Sutter said earlier this week that there is a big difference in contributing at the minor league level, many wonder if playing five-to-10 minutes on a line designed to grind is really setting Phillips up for success.
Hey, it's a start. Brett Ritchie has scored a handful from that spot. And if nothing else, Phillips will get to watch the way Gaudreau is able to get into the meat of the game without being hurt by his size.