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Kadri says relationship with Sutter is ‘fine’

Calgary Flames Nazem Kadri - Getty Images

Calgary Flames’ centre Nazem Kadri is downplaying recent media speculation that he and head coach Darryl Sutter have not seen eye to eye this season.

Kadri, who has not scored in 16 games and has seen his ice time reduced over the past 10, spoke about his relationship with Sutter on Thursday morning ahead of the Flames-Golden Knights game.

“It’s been fine,” he said. “Obviously throughout an 82-game season, you’re gonna have rough patches and not everything is going to go your way throughout eight months of playing. So, it’s how you bounce back and how you fight that adversity. It’s something I’ve been pretty good at throughout my career, so this is no different.”

Kadri, who is in the first year of a seven-year, $49 million contract he signed with the Flames last off-season, said that dealing with media chatter is part of playing in a Canadian city. He insisted his focus is on the team’s next three home games and its push for a playoff spot.

“I think there’s a lot of speculation that happens in Canadian markets,” he said. “That’s understandable, but for us, these games are huge. This is really all that matters.”

After an impressive start to his Flames career, which included an All-Star Game selection, Kadri hasn’t found the back of the net in more than a month. His last goal was at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Feb. 18. Since then, the 32-year-old has registered eight assists.

Kadri is also playing nearly two full minutes less per game than last season with the Colorado Avalanche. In seven of his past 10 games, he has played fewer than 15 minutes.

Sutter said the onus is on veterans to earn back their minutes.

“Not at all,” he said Thursday morning, when asked if he talked to players when their role was reduced. “The only thing a coach has got on a player now is ice time. So, anybody that talks about that, they shouldn’t be talking about coaches or any of that stuff, or deep analysis. They should just be looking at players’ performance. Very simple. There’s not much around that at all.”

Sutter said he’s much more likely to take a hands-on approach with younger players, communicating about their roles and fluctuations in playing time.

“If it’s a young player you’re trying to work them through it, keeping them off or keeping them away from certain guys, things like that, or managing schedules as we talked about with some of our younger players,” he said. “But the veteran players, [if] they’re still capable of being a good player, that’s on them.”

Kadri did play the most even-strength minutes of any Flames centre in the team’s 5-1 victory in Anaheim on Tuesday, which he hopes is a sign of things to come. His line with Dillon Dube and Nick Ritchie started the game, and Ritchie scored on that first shift. 

“I felt pretty good,” Kadri said of the game. “Some opportunities to score, and I think our line did a great job of giving us some energy and contributing…Of course, you want to be out there, contributing, and helping your team win. I think you become more noticeable the more you’re out there and more opportunity you get.”

Kadri also spoke about comments former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate James Reimer made about him on Saturday.

Reimer, now with the San Jose Sharks, declined to wear the team’s Pride warmup jersey on Saturday during the franchise’s Pride Night. 

“Nazem Kadri as a teammate, loved him to death,” Reimer told reporters.

“I don’t know exactly the extent of his faith, his Muslim faith. But he’s a Muslim. I think you could talk to him and ask him if I treated him any different. I love him. I competed with him on the ice, we joked around, we did life together. And yet, people would understand if I wouldn’t be able to wear a Muslim jersey in warmups, promoting the Muslim faith, being a Christian and a follow in Christ. He himself would fully understand that.”

Kadri vouched for Reimer’s character and added that he wants to see more representation in hockey.

“James is a great guy,” he said. “I’m not sure why I got tied into it, but at the end of the day, his opinions are his opinions…For us, it’s supporting, whether it’s an ethnicity or community, anybody is welcomed in our hockey rink.”

The Flames Pride Game is March 28 versus the Los Angeles Kings. The team has not said yet if the players will wear Pride jerseys.

“We want to welcome everybody into the Saddledome, and we want to continue to grow this great game and get as many people watching hockey as we possibly can,” Kadri said.