With minutes and points down, Dillon Dube trying to make impact in other ways for Flames

Dube has spent much of the year on the fourth line

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Dillon Dube’s role has changed this year for the Calgary Flames.

He spent big chunks of last season playing on the team’s top line alongside Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. That meant he averaged more than 15 minutes per game for the first time in his career. That increase in playing time resulted in Dube finishing the season with 45 points, a career high.

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It has been different this season, though. Dube has spent much of the year on the fourth line and is only averaging 11:43 of ice time, his lowest since his rookie season back in 2018-19.

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Predictably, that has led to a drop-off in point production, too.

“I think offence comes with minutes, too, and, when you’re playing fourth line for the majority of the year you try to keep the puck out of your own net, which I still need to do a better job of,” Dube said last week. “But our line, with (A.J. Greer) and either (Adam Ruzicka or Walker Duehr), I think our job is to create momentum for the team right now, not necessarily be game-breakers, and I’m getting used to that role.”

Dube hasn’t played more than 9:20 in the Flames’ past eight games and is generally getting between 11 and 13 shifts per contest.

He also hasn’t recorded a point in 16 games and his current season totals stand at three goals and four assists. Obviously, he’d like to be producing more.

As he explained, though, the 25-year-old is trying to find different ways to impact games for the Flames.

It might not necessarily be what most fans were expecting from Dube entering the season, but he has tried to embrace the role and do what’s asked.

“I think we’re trying to be momentum-builders for our team and, honestly, I think we’ve done a really good job of it as of late,” Dube said. “Those games before Christmas break, I thought for what we got we were one of the best lines throughout at creating momentum for the guys and we’ve just got to keep that going.”

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When Ruzicka is in the lineup, which has been the case more often than not in recent weeks, Dube is slotting in at right wing on the fourth line, with Greer on the left.

When Duehr was included on the roster for last week’s game against the Seattle Kraken, Dube slotted in at centre.

That ability to move around and play both different positions and with different linemates has long been a part of Dube’s game and it’s something head coach Ryan Huska highlighted as far back as training camp, when he was asked about where the young forward might slot into the lineup this season.

“Whether he’s playing on a line with Elias or (Nazem Kadri) or Mikael (Backlund) or playing on a line with (Ruzicka), he has to play a certain style,” Huska said back in October. “I think that’s the challenge for him and with maturity, he has a better understanding that ‘I don’t have to change my game if I’m playing with Elias compared to if I’m playing with somebody else on a different line.’”

So far this season, the opportunities mostly have come on the fourth line.

Dube’s just trying to do whatever he’s asked to help the team win, whether that’s playing big minutes or getting less ice time, or whether it’s on the wing or at centre.

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And while playing in the middle isn’t new to Dube — he has done it before — there are new responsibilities that come with the position in Huska’s new system.

“It’s good, we changed our D-zone coverage quite a bit and I haven’t played much centre this year, so it’s an adjustment for me,” Dube said. “If I’m playing centre, I’m worried about D-zone, keeping puck out of the net.

“Last year, man-on-man, it was easier — well, not easier, I’ve just played man-on-man here my whole career here — so it was easier, that switch. But that was my first game and I felt really comfortable defensively with the new system.”

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OVERTIME HEARTBREAK FOR HONZEK

Samuel Honzek’s dream of winning IIHF world junior championship gold came to an end in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.

The Flames’ first-round pick, 16th overall, in the 2023 NHL draft had a solid tournament for Slovakia, picking up three goals and an assist in five games and led his country’s team in plus/minus, at +3.

But Slovakia’s tournament came to an end when Jere Lassila scored for Finland 24 seconds into overtime on Tuesday morning.

Honzek will now return to the Vancouver Giants.

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