The Calgary Flames don’t play today, but they’re back on the practice ice as they prepare for another crucial game tomorrow night when they host the Arizona Coyotes. Here’s a brief look at what’s going on in Flames-land today.
Lines from practice this morning:
Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
Raymond – Backlund – Colborne
Bouma – Stajan – Jones
Ferland – Granlund – Jooris
(Extras: Bennett, Bollig, Shore)
Russell – Wideman
Brodie – Engelland
Schlemko – Potter
Injured players Karri Ramo, Paul Byron, Ladislav Smid and Mark Giordano didn’t skate.
After practice, Flames coach Bob Hartley indicated he didn’t expect to make changes. The guys that are playing are the guys that have been with the group all season, and Hartley has tended to reward guys for working hard in practice with game time. As the old saying goes, you dance with the one that brought ya.
In terms of Bennett getting in, the big issue is this: he’s an 18-year-old kid who has played 15 games this season of any kind. At the NHL level, even with practice time, he’s a complete unknown. At this point, it’s probably less disruptive to Hartley’s line-matching strategies to not have to worry about slotting in an unknown quantity. (And then you have to figure out if he plays the wing or center, and with whom, and against whom…) Similar arguments likely exist regarding Corey Potter and Tyler Wotherspoon; I think the coaching staff feels they know what Potter’s limitations are and feel like they can work around them. Maintaining a left-hand/right-hand balance on each pairing may also play into it, too. All that they really know about Wotherspoon is that he was good in the NHL (briefly) last season and he’s been very effective in Adirondack this season.
A playoff chase isn’t a time to experiment. That said, if the Flames somehow clinch before the final game of the year, I’d expect Wotherspoon, Bennett and perhaps the other extras to slide in to give some banged-up bodies a brief rest before the post-season. The nice thing is that Bennett provides a potential top-nine option, if needed, while Hartley already has rotated Shore, Ferland, Jooris, and Bollig through the bottom couple lines (and out of the line-up) of late. Options are always nice.
The atmosphere around the team remains pretty loose. Players and coaches were joking around and there’s the same general jovial attitude around the team that we saw earlier in the season. This may change as the games tick down closer to the end, but it’s definitely a sign (right now) that’s positive.
EVERYONE UP FROM THE AHL
For the curious, here’s who the Baby Flames are operating without:
- In Calgary: G Brad Thiessen, D Corey Potter, D Tyler Wotherspoon, F Michael Ferland, F Drew Shore, F Josh Jooris, F Markus Granlund
- Injured: G Joni Ortio, D Ryan Culkin, F Turner Elson
- On Parental Leave: F Brian McGrattan
Fifth-string goalie Doug Carr and college try-out Clay Witt are the remaining healthy netminders in Glens Falls. In other words, things are getting thin down on the farm.
HITMEN/ICE GAME 7
Meanwhile, there’s important hockey with a Flames connection going on down at the Saddledome this evening! In what coulld be the final junior contest of Keegan Kanzig’s hockey career – unless they win – the Calgary Hitmen face the Kootenay Ice in Game 7 tonight at 7pm MT! Loser goes home, winner moves on to face the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Kanzig’s been utilized by coach Mark French as a shutdown foil to Sam Reinhart’s line, and he’s had some success, but Reinhart still has 8 points in his six games. I’ll be taking the game in, so I’ll hopefully have a report on Kanzig’s performance afterwards.