Flames’ Sutter Scratches Phillips, Ices Zohorna Against Columbus
Calgary Flames fans were excited when Matthew Phillips was called up but disappointed when he was scratched Friday against Columbus.
The hesitation from Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter to insert Matthew Phillips into the lineup shouldn't have been lost on anyone who watched the bench boss’s availability after the morning skate.
“He deserved to get the opportunity to get called up. His last 10 games he’s been really good. Training camp was not very good, so the opportunity didn’t present itself. He went through waivers, went down, so it’s another opportunity,” he said, shrugging.
Then he was asked about his size being a problem.
“We’re playing a team with good size tonight. That’s always an issue,” Sutter continued, never saying Phillips was in the lineup.
A follow-up came about what parts of his game are key to having success at this level and Sutter wavered, made faces and paused before talking about the lack of size again.
“You know, he’s an awesome kid, he’s got an awesome skillset. And he’s a really good competitor. So, the next part is size. That’s clear.”
Phillips skated on the right wing alongside Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis during the morning skate. As a placeholder. Fresh off his own journey, Radim Zohorna drew into the lineup instead — a 6-foot-7 centre who was called up Friday after the demotion of Kevin Rooney.
But none of this should take away from what is still a special experience for Phillips, a born and raised Calgarian who can only benefit from the time with the big club
"It's always a good day when you get that call," Phillips said after the morning skate in Columbus. "Obviously I've been working towards it. It feels good and I'm just really excited to be here. It's something that's a pretty special feeling and something I'd never take for granted."
He got the call after Wednesday’s Calgary Flames victory over the Minnesota Wild but according to Sportsnet's Eric Francis was told on Thursday he wouldn't play against the Jackets.
With a league-leading 15 goals and 30 points through 20 games in the AHL, Phillips deserved to be the first man up.
Yes, the second man suited up first, but hopefully that wasn’t a surprise to Phillips, who still got a chance to watch Gaudreau in person to see what he might glean from the way a fellow small-bodied skill winger plays.
“He's an incredible player, a guy I admired before I got drafted by the Flames. I always watch him, he's done some incredible things in the league, so it's pretty cool," Phillips said earlier. Most believed at the time he’d be playing. “One thing I like about his game is his patience with the puck. I think he has poise and patience — waits for passing lanes to open up — and he's always moving his feet. Those are a couple of things I try to take from him.”
Phillips' next shot at getting into the lineup comes tomorrow in Toronto.