FLAMES NOTES: Backlund climbs all-time list, Dube benched against Senators

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Mikael Backlund values loyalty.

He’s proud of the fact that his dad worked at the same sales job for 33 years. It means a lot that his late grandfather, a carpenter by trade, had a similar run with his longtime employer.

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And it’s certainly not lost on Backlund that, in the oftentimes unpredictable business of professional puck, he’s only ever worn one NHL logo.

On Tuesday, Backlund logged his 949th career game on behalf of the Calgary Flames, the second-highest total in franchise history.

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“It’s very special,” Backlund, 34, beamed after morning skate at the Saddledome. “When I made the decision to stay here, I thought of my grandpa, I thought of my dad, both of them working for the same company for such a long time and both of them being loyal to their companies. I just felt that was kind of in the family, and I thought it was probably meant to be that way for me, too.

“So I definitely reflected on that. And the same goes … I never brought this up, but my friend who passed away, he played for the same sports team his whole career and if he was still alive, he’d still be playing on that team, too. So a lot of connections that way, too.”

Backlund’s grandfather and gone-far-too-soon friend must have been smiling down Tuesday.

And it turned out to be terrific timing for his proud papa, Jan. With the Flames about to embark on their dad’s trip, he arrived from Sweden to see his son celebrate his latest career milestone during a clash with the Ottawa Senators.

Backlund will briefly share second on Calgary’s all-time games played list with Mark Giordano, his former teammate and “mentor” and his predecessor as captain.

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Calgary Flames Mikael Backlund, right, celebrates with Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie after firing the puck past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the Flames only goal in NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Saddledome
Calgary Flames Mikael Backlund, right, celebrates with Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie after firing the puck past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the Flames only goal in NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta. on Saturday January 11, 2014. The Penguins beat the Flames 2-1. Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency Photo by Mike Drew /Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

He now trails only Jarome Iginla, who totalled 1,219 appearances in the Flaming C crest.

Could Backlund eventually take a run at Iggy’s club record? The reliable centre would need to play nearly three more full seasons, beyond this one, to surpass that mark.

“The way he takes care of himself, I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Flames bench boss Ryan Huska. “To start the year, Mikael is top-three in our testing, and he is every year. So he understands what he has to do to keep himself at a high level. Every year, the players get younger and they get faster and they get stronger. And when you’re smart like Mikael is, he knows there is a standard that he has to stay to or adhere to, and he pushes himself hard to make sure he’s ready to play all the time.

“And that’s very similar to what we saw from Mark and I’m sure that’s exactly the same thing you saw from Jarome. And I’m guessing that Mikael learned a lot from Jarome when they played together here.”

Sure did.

Just like the current cast is learning a lot from Backlund, whose longevity and loyalty was being celebrated again Tuesday.

“That’s a lot of games,” said Flames alternate captain Rasmus Andersson as his pal prepared for No. 949. “But the way he takes care of himself and looks after himself, you’re not surprised. You guys get to see him on a day-to-day basis, but you only see half of it. It’s the other half that is so impressive with him. The way he takes care of himself in the gym and the extra work he does, the preparation, all that kind of stuff, and just the leadership too …

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“So yeah, I couldn’t be more excited for Backs.”

Colin Blackwell #43 of the Chicago Blackhawks battles for the puck with Dillon Dube #29 of the Calgary Flames in the third period
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JANUARY 07: Colin Blackwell #43 of the Chicago Blackhawks battles for the puck with Dillon Dube #29 of the Calgary Flames in the third period on January 07, 2024 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago defeated Calgary 4-3. Photo by Jamie Sabau /Getty Images

DUBE SITS

Currently in the longest scoring slump of his NHL career, Flames forward Dillon Dube was stuck spectating Tuesday, the first time in close to three years that he’s been a healthy scratch.

Dube, who has been skating primarily on Calgary’s fourth line, hasn’t registered a single point in his past 20 games. During that dry-spell, the 25-year-old speedster has averaged just over nine minutes per night, a significant dip from his career average.

Dube piled up 45 points last season, so the Flames know he is capable of contributing much more than his stat-sheet currently shows. He’s managed three goals and four assists in 39 contests so far in 2023-24.

“He hasn’t been the Dillon Dube that he’s capable of being over the last little bit,” Huska said, shouldering some of the blame. “A lot of that falls on me and the amount of icetime he’s had over the last little while. This just gives him a chance to reset himself and then come back better than ever.”

ICE CHIPS: Flames defence call-up Yan Kuznetsov was tapped Tuesday for his NHL debut. The 21-year-old was Calgary’s second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. “It’s been a long way and it’s always been a goal,” Kuznetsov told reporters prior to the showdown with the Senators. “It’s pretty amazing. It’s overwhelming at first, definitely, but then it wears off and it’s more enjoyment. I will just try to enjoy this day as much as I can” … Flames centre Kevin Rooney, sidelined since late September due to shoulder surgery, cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL’s Wranglers.

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