Monday was the second day of Flames training camp and the first day featuring a scrimmage. I attended and managed to jot a few notes during the action.
NEWS AND NOTES
The Sun’s Randy Sportak reported via Twitter that Jarome Iginla (groin) and Anton Babchuk (shoulder) skated prior to the main group. Also absent from Monday’s proceedings were Roman Cervenka (blood clots) and Jiri Hudler (family illness), so Roman Horak was the lone Czech on the ice.
Bob Hartley has fairly earned a reputation for having really up-tempo practices. The Flames practiced a lot of break-outs, transitions and forechecking drills. On your average drill, associate coach Jacques Cloutier would set things up quickly, send the players into their drill, and Hartley would only intervene if things were being done incorrectly. The team went from drill, to skating laps, to another drill, almost seamlessly with very little downtime. In a roughly 90-minute practice (prior to the scrimmage), there was maybe 10 minutes of downtime for water and instructions from the staff.
Clint Malarchuk, Craig Conroy and Martin Gelinas were also on the ice assisting, but it was primarily the Hartley and Cloutier show.
After a 10-minute break, the Flames split into Team Red and Team Black for a roughly 40-minute scrimmage. With the team three forwards short, they dipped into the collegiate pool and brought in U of C Dinos forwards Walker Wintoneak, Brock Nixon and Taylor Stefishen.
Team Red lined up roughly like this (although the coaches jumbled their lines a bit later on):
- Glencross – Tanguay – Comeau
- Begin – Stajan – Stempniak
- Winchester – Street – Wintoneak
- Giordano – Bouwmeester
- Smith – Sarich
Team Black looked like this, for the most part:
- Baertschi – Backlund – Cammalleri
- Horak – Jones – Jackman
- Nixon – Byron – Stefishen
- Butler – Wideman
- Brodie – Carson
The tempo started off fairly strong and tailed off a bit towards the end. All of the scoring was in the first half of the scrimmage and most players lost their legs towards the end. At that point, to be fair, most of them had been on the ice for the better part of three hours.
Team Red won 2-1. The standout for them was likely Curtis Glencross. The veteran winger forced a penalty with a strong forecheck in Team Black’s zone, got hauled down, and then scored stick-side on Leland Irving on the ensuing penalty shot. Glencross was also instrumental in the second goal for Red, forechecking and forcing a turn-out, then firing it to Matt Stajan, who jammed home his own rebound to put Red up 2-0.
Mikael Backlund scored the lone goal for Black, driving the net through traffic from the corner. Backlund was perhaps his team’s best player, as he has seemingly abandoned his perimeter play in favour of driving up the middle lane. If he can continue this and be effective, he’ll open up a lot of opportunities for his linemates. For their part, Sven Baertschi and Mike Cammalleri were both good on Backlund’s line.
In terms of goaltenders, Kiprusoff was expectedly better than his two prospective understudies. He absolutely robbed Roman Horak on a beautiful saucer-pass feed from Tim Jackman on a 2-on-1 rush. Neither Irving nor Karlsson looked particularly good or particularly bad, but neither made any spectacular saves.
The other storyline was centres. As you would expect, the “natural” centres for the Flames were the better at face-offs and generally at positioning. Backlund, Jones, Stajan and Street were all fairly strong in the dot. Tanguay took several draws and wasn’t amazing, but he looked decent, too. Paul Byron and Mike Cammalleri took some draws as well, albeit with mixed results.
With Hudler heading back to Prague (and no specific timeline for his return), Cervenka unlikely to be ready for the first week of games and Babchuk confirmed to be out for about three or four weeks, the Flames roster situation is opening up slightly.
No Babchuk trims the number of NHL-ready defenders down to eight, and the Flames can get down to seven if they waive Carson and assign him to the farm.
As for forwards? With a spot likely open due to Lance Bouma’s season-ending injury, the temporary absences of Hudler and Cervenka drop the number of cemented forward spots down to 10, leaving the door open for possibly three players to open the year with Calgary.
Which three those turn out to be will likely be spelled out in the coming days.