The month of November is now officially in the rear-view mirror, and we’re about to hit the fun part of the year: December. It’s a month full of Teddy Bear Tosses, the World Juniors and a lot of NHL hockey. Heck, Jarome Iginla makes his return to Calgary in a couple of weeks.
But before we can dive into December, let’s take a quick look back at the tail-end of November!
The Flames played three times over the past week. They had two good games and one bad game. They only won once.
On Wednesday, the Flames hosted the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite getting a 2-0 lead early in the third period, the game got away from the Flames and they ended up losing 3-2 and getting zero points. Matt Stajan and Sean Monahan scored, while Reto Berra was tagged with the loss in net. [Post-Game]
On Friday, the Flames began a quick two-game road trip in Anaheim. As usual, the Flames lost in Anaheim (by a 5-2 score). However, they were summarily out-worked by the Ducks, which is generally unusual for this year’s club. David Jones had both Flames goals. Reto Berra allowed five goals and was replaced after the last with Karri Ramo. [Post-Game]
On Saturday, the Flames jumped back into action with the LA Kings. Unlike their prior day’s effort, the Flames out-worked their opposition and skated away with a 2-1 win. Blair Jones and Mike Cammalleri scored for the Flames, with Cammalleri’s marker coming with 23 seconds left. Karri Ramo got the start and was generally quite good in the win. [Post-Game]
There was also quite a bit of roster movement this week as a result of a few injuries. T.J. Galiardi (back spasms), Sean Monahan (hairline foot fracture) and Dennis Wideman (broken hand) were put on the IR, while Max Reinhart and Paul Byron were summoned from the AHL.
But good news, everybody, as Mark Giordano has progressed (in the past week) from skating by himself (as he did on Tuesday) to skating with the team in practice. He’s tracking towards being back next week, perhaps, which would be great for the club.
First off, read Steve MacFarlane’s piece on Matt Stajan. Stajan’s gone from being a fourth liner during Brent Sutter’s tenure to being one of the key pieces for the Flames. A great resurgence for Matty Franchise.
Scott Cruickshank talked to a lot of Flames dads during the recent road trip. Thankfully the team won a game during the California trip, otherwise the Flames may have been grounded.
But hey, the Flames world isn’t all sunshine, lollipops and golfing with Dad in SoCal. The Flames are missing a ton of bodies – key bodies – due to injury. George Johnson has the details.
Speaking of injuries, Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun discusses the impending announcement of Team Canada’s 26-man selection camp roster for the World Juniors. Of note? Monahan’s injury may play a major part in the composition of the team.
Eric Francis talked with former Flame Mike Commodore, who’s currently in the KHL playing with the expansion club Admiral Vladivostok.
And finally, I had the chance to talk to Chris Breen and Craig Conroy about what the heck is happening in Abbotsford, as the Heat are presently the best team in the AHL. Coming later this week here at FlamesNation, a lengthy chat I had with Heat head coach Troy G. Ward.
A LOOK BACK
A lot of losing all-around the Flames organization this week sadly, but two of three pro clubs managed to earn some points. The Flames went 1-2-0, with a win against the Kings on the road in the back-end of a back-to-back.
Elsewhere, the Abbotsford Heat hit a bit of a stumble this week, losing both of their games against the lowly Utica Comets. They lost 3-2 on Friday (Michael Ferland and Greg Nemisz scored in an aborted comeback) and then lost 4-3 in overtime on Saturday (with Turner Elson, Josh Jooris and Ben Street scoring). When you consider that the Heat are without regular defensemen Mark Cundari, Tyler Wotherspoon and Patrick Sieloff, and missing regulars Max Reinhart and Paul Byron, they’re hanging in their pretty well. Meanwhile, in the ECHL, the Alaska Aces lost both of their games this week against the Colorado Eagles.
Your unofficial prospect Three Stars this week: Gatineau forward Emile Poirier (eight points this week, including four helpers in a single game), Providence College goalie Jon Gillies (45 saves against Quinnipac, 32 saves against Brown) and Yale forward Kenny Agostino (one assist and a plus-3 in a 3-2 Yale win over Merrimack). Also of note: Swift Current forward Coda Gordon is reportedly out 4-6 weeks with a lower body injury, while Morgan Klimchuk suffered an undisclosed injury in the final Subway Super Series game and will be out an undetermined amount of time.
Oh yeah, so the Super Series provided a nice (televised) opportunity to view 2013 seventh round pick Rushan Rafikov against a high-level peer group. Rafikov played five of six games, missing only the first match against Team QMJHL. He had zero points and was a minus-4 in the series, which sadly is the only “counting stat” the CHL tracks during the series. That said, he generally seemed pretty solid. He’s a right-side defender (shooting left), with a good first pass out of the zone and some good mobility. He was often out there against the CHL’s top players and looked pretty decent, and actually got a lot of ice-time in the later games at the end of the game with the games close, indicating that he earned a bit of trust from the Russian coach.
Rafikov is one of the better players on one of the better teams in the MHL, but there’s a bit of debate about how the talent in the MHL stacks up against their Canadian counterparts. At the very least, Rafikov showed he can stand his own against the CHL. There’s no guarantee that his performance earns him a spot on Team Russia at the World Juniors, but he definitely gave Russia’s coaching and management something to think about.
A LOOK AHEAD
The Flames have a couple days off and then gets back in the saddle on Wednesday at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. After that, it’s a back-to-back against some good young hockey clubs to close out the week: on Friday the Flames host the Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche, and on Saturday they head to Edmonton to face the Oilers.
In the AHL, the Heat host the San Antonio Rampage on Friday and Saturday. In the ECHL, the Aces head down to Salt Lake City to face Calgary’s old ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
After a rare “disappointing” effort for Boston College (via a 5-4 loss to Holy Cross), Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold get back into action with a home-and-home against New Hampshire. That’s probably the biggest highlight of the week for the kids, as it’ll be interesting to see how the BC kids react to that upset loss.
Finally, if you are curious about the Vancouver Giants and how Brett Kulak can be a point-per-game player as a blueliner (or want to see Sam Reinhart play), Kootenay and Vancouver play on Shaw TV on Wednesday night.