Joel Lowry has found himself in one of the most unwanted position a hockey player faces – in and out of the lineup.
The Calgary native has no points this season and has appeared in nine of the Reign’s first 15 games.
“Expectations haven’t changed,” head coach Mike Stothers said of Lowry. “I know what he’s capable of doing. He needs to be bringing it every game. So, he himself raised the bar. Not me, he did. Expectations, he did it, so he needs to rise to that level.”
That level came in the form of Lowry’s hot end to the last campaign that is clearly sticking in Stothers’ mind. The hard-nosed winger had three goals and four assists in the last five games of regular season and added four goals and two assists in 12 playoff games. In fact, his four postseason goals finished tied for the team lead with Nic Dowd and Adrian Kempe.
That improved play has yet to carry over into 2016-17 and as a result, Lowry, who was in the lineup the first three games to start the season, has appeared in only four of nine November contests and no consecutive games during that stretch.
“Obviously coming in and out of the lineup’s not the easiest thing to do,” said Lowry, who just turned 25 two weeks ago. “It’s not very much fun but every team has guys that are doing that you just need to make the most of your opportunities and doing whatever it takes, whatever you can to help the team win.
“I don’t think at the start of the season I really played my best hockey and that’s unfortunate for me, but personally I’ve been playing a little bit better lately so hopefully I continue to do that and I can just help the team win.”
His chances for ice time have been gobbled up by wingers with a similar, grinding style of play like Sam Herr, Michael Latta and Paul Bissonnette, so he’s turned his focus to playing with more edge.
“I think [the coaches] me to bring some physicality, especially when I’m playing on the fourth line,” said Lowry, a fifth round pick by the Kings in 2011. “I think that’s an important element, especially for that line to bring. So I think that’s one thing that I’m really focusing on.”
Lowry was scratched in Sunday’s game against San Diego, a day after his first period boarding penalty while going in on the forecheck resulted in a power play goal for San Jose in its eventual 5-2 win.
Combating the nervous energy that comes with playing with something to prove is a task.
“That’s something that guys go through and you just have to do your best not to think about that,” Lowry said. “The worst thing that can happen if you’re in and out of the lineup is that you’ll be out of the lineup, so you might as well just go in and play with nothing to lose and do whatever you can to help the team win.”
Stothers, who can be frank and forgiving all in one breath, is just waiting for the Lowry of late 2015-16 to appear.
“You’re always out to prove every game, whether you’ve been in for in a row or not, you’re still proving that you belong to be in the lineup,” he said. “There isn’t too many coaches that won’t play a guy if he’s doing his job.
“Do your job, you play.”
Joey Z and ORI break down last week’s games and discuss the injury to Jack Campbell. Watch it below: