Carolina Hurricanes forward Brad Malone was a healthy scratch for six straight games this season, working hard in practice but wondering when he would play again.
Now, two months later, he has a sandwich named for him.
Canes coach Bill Peters calls him "Bugsy." The sandwich, to be introduced Tuesday at the North Hills Harris Teeter, is the "Meaty Malone."
"I wanted to go with 'Maloney Baloney' but they wouldn't go for it," Malone joked Monday.
But Malone's play since rejoining the lineup in early December has been more about gristle. He has teamed with veteran center Jay McClement and winger Patrick Dwyer to form a fourth line that Peters said is among the more effective in the NHL.
Peters has tried various line combinations the past month or so, moving Eric Staal from center to left wing and more recently looking at Andrej Nestrasil at center. But he likes what he has seen out of the Malone-McClement-Dwyer line and left it alone.
"It's been really good play out of those guys and has been for a long time," Peters said Monday. "I'm comfortable playing them against anybody. They know how to play and they play right each and every night."
Most fourth lines in the league log their minutes, get in some hits, supply energy, play good defense and leave the points to others. But Malone has four goals and an assist in the past eight games, and the line has combined for eight goals and 12 assists in the past 15 games.
"We know our role and how we need to play," McClement said. "We have different skill sets and read off each other pretty well. To be able to contribute (offensively) is an added bonus, for sure."
In the Canes' 5-4 victory Saturday over the San Jose Sharks that capped a 2-1-1 road trip, defenseman Andrej Sekera scored on a shot with Dwyer driving hard to the net. McClement had the primary assist and the line did some strong forechecking throughout the game.
"We've just been keeping it simple and try to play within the system," Malone said. "The more you do that the more comfortable you get, the more natural it is."
Malone, 25, signed a two-year, one-way contract with Carolina last July. General manager Ron Francis said he wanted to get more size and thump on the fourth line and said the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Malone would help do it.
Malone, who had 54 games of NHL experience in parts of three seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, played in the Canes' first 10 games. He then was a healthy scratch for 10 of the next 16 in November and early December.
"When you get healthy scratched or don't play, you've got to look and ask why not and learn from that," Malone said. "For me, having played just 50-some games, I'm still developing and it's still a maturing process."
Malone notched his first goal - and point - with the Canes on Jan. 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers, in his 28th game. He blistered a shot from the left wing, seemingly shocking goalie Steve Mason.
And now? Four goals in eight games?
"I got new sticks," Malone said, smiling. "Warrior sent me a new curve, new sticks. I said at first I don't know, then I scored and "
Malone already had proven he would drop the gloves and fight, if need be. He has gone head-to-head with the likes of Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens and Gregory Campbell of the Boston Bruins.
Peters said recently he likes for a player to "show me" - don't just talk about more playing time, but prove he deserves it. Or in Malone's case, in the lineup.
"In my circumstance you could argue I'm a bubble guy," Malone said. "I'm very easy replaceable in the lineup with the skill we have.
"When you score goals that's great, but that's not something I'm going to do 35 or 40 times a year. Every night I've got to show I'm willing to do whatever it takes, whether it's fighting or hitting or blocking shots."