Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames back on the ice after the bye week

The Calgary Flames returned to the ice for a rare afternoon practice, as they faced the unique imperfect storm of their five-day bye week ending right as they have to prepare for an afternoon home game on Saturday.

Despite the peculiarities of the situation, spirits were high as the Flames hope to extend their seven-game winning streak when they host the Winnipeg Jets.

Here’s what went down at practice.

Talkin’ bout practice

It was not a terribly long practice, a little bit shy of an hour, but the entire ice time seemed aimed towards getting them playing with some pace. It was a mixture of some fun drills, some transition drills, some battle drills and some simulated scrimmage time.

The lineup was more or less what you would expect. Sean Monahan back as a full participant after missing the game in Carolina with an illness.

Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik skated as the extra bodies.

News and notes

While neither Garnet Hathaway nor David Rittich have been told to find permanent residences in Calgary as of yet, head coach Glen Gulutzan noted after practice that neither player is going anywhere.

“I can’t see either of those guys going anywhere now with the way we’re utilizing them. So I don’t think that’s up in the air. We haven’t made any definitive decisions, I’m sure we’re going to make that soon. From my perspective, neither guy is going to go anywhere.”

In terms of injuries: Michael Frolik (jaw) and Jaromir Jagr (lower body) are both skating, though still a little ways away from skating with the main group. Kris Versteeg (hip) is in town doing his rehab and is (per Postmedia’s Kristen Odland) meeting with his doctor later this month, at which point there will be a timeline for his return.

Gulutzan had some high praise for his team’s goaltending:

What’s happened is they’ve given us a chance almost every night. We’ve gotten good goaltending all year. During this last little stretch we’ve added that our penalty kill is starting to come around. We’ve started to score a little bit easier, and our power play scored some timely goals, though we think it can be better. At the end of the day, you add that into that bowl with the goaltending that we’ve been getting and we’re starting to get wins out of it.

    • Mickey O

      Hear what you’re saying. Been watching some games from teams in our division this week.
      I have no clue how Brown got away with only a max fine on his cross-check on Justin Schultz. That should have been 3 games.
      Perry’s blindside elbow on Letang was vicious also, and Perry did not even get a hearing. That was deserving of 2 games in my opinion.
      Player Safety really dropped the ball on those two plays. Now somehow they are factoring in whether a player got injured or not. George Parros really needs to step up and show some consistency in decisions. Rant over.

  • freethe flames

    Lets hope they found their legs by having a skate today. I have been thinking about the game that Monny missed and wondered if anyone else thought it should have been Janko at center with the first line.
    I also wonder what happens when Frolik returns to the line up, they can’t go back to Brouwer and Stajan on the same line after seeing how much better Stajan plays when he plays with kids who can skate.

    • Mickey O

      The Mangiapane – Stajan – Lazar line has been a very good fourth line. But Frolik will get his job back on the 3M, then Brouwer will be back to bogging everything down on the fourth.
      Like you said: Veteranitis, free, veterenitis.

      • freethe flames

        Like I have been saying for some time now; the NHL is about speed and while Lazar has his faults and Mangiapane is a work in progress they both bring speed. This I believe allows Stajan to use his experience to be helpful, but I am concerned that GG will return to what he knows best which is lean on the vets after Frolik returns despite the importance of speed. What happens if the deem Jagr healthy enough to play? What happens to that speed?

        • Mickey O

          Not sure Jagr will play here again. It would be really bad optics if the Flames parted ways with a player when he was injured. Jagr has built up enough legend points over the decades that it isn’t really an option. He’ll probably just move back home and be player/owner in Czech after both sides figure out a parting of the ways.

          I agree with you that Stajan has looked a lot better playing with the youngsters, and speed is the name of the game these days. Hrivik might get some starts down the stretch at centre and wing, and be more than a designated sitter. I think all things being equal most coaches would have sat Brouwer for at least a game already.

          But you’ve got the politics of the big contract, and an assistant captaincy thrown into the mix, and Gulutzan really thinks Brouwer brings something to the ice that is difficult for others to see. Brouwer wasn’t good in his last game, but before that he’s been okay because Backlund and Byng can cover for him.

      • everton fc

        Perhaps, when Frolik returns, that 4th line becomes Mangiapane-Stajan-Brouwer? Most likely it’ll be Brouwer-Stajan-Lazar. Ideally, I’d like to see Mangiapane-Hrivik-Brouwer .

  • Alberta Ice

    Mike Smith should be playing in the NHL All Star game. On the other hand, I am really glad he isn’t. Goalies are usually used for scoring fodder there anyway. And another little break time might be just the thing that keeps him sharp and strong for the home run stretch. GFG.

  • everton fc

    We survived the break.

    Kings on a 5 game losing streak.
    We have games in hand on the Wild, Ducks and Stars.
    San Jose hasn’t pulled away.
    The Avs are a scarey, nothing-to-lose team – much like us.
    Edmonton is 10 points out of the wildcard spot, w/o Nugent-Hopkins. Sad.

    • freethe flames

      So with 16 games left before the trade deadline when does BT decide whether this team is a buyer or a seller? BT has a month to see if he can get Backs signed and if not depending on the playoff picture traded. Do I want to trade Backs; no, but do I want to loss him for nothing; no. Barring any injuries what should BT be looking for? IMO we have depth in net, on D and on the LW; what we are in need of is a RHF who can play either center or RW and can play up and down the line up; this does not need to be an established vet but IMO a younger guy who can bring speed to the line up. What does BT have as trading chips; IMO it’s pretty limited: he has no draft picks to speak of (ideally I think he would like to pick up some picks), I think there are some prospects that are almost untouchable being Dube, Fox(unless he has made it clear he will not sign in Calgary), Valimaki, Andersson and Parsons. After that I would think everyone is available. From the big club I would suggest that BT is likely happy with most of his line up and the guys we would like to see moved have little value and are unlikely to be moved.

      Eric F article about trading for Karlsson is laughable; the starting point would IMO need to start with one of Hamilton or Hamonic; possibly one other roster player such as Bennett or Janko and then a package of prospects. If that is the cost then I probably would not be interested.

      • YWC

        For Karlsson, I wouldn’t mind giving up any of Brodie, Hamilton, Hamonic or even Bennet. He is that good of a player. I would even consider any two of the D we have. It will make the D still better and open up for our prospects.

        • freethe flames

          Thanks for the insight; so how do they turn it around? Who is taking the bad penalties and why? I continue to believe that one of the big problems is the lack of quality centers on the Heat. With Hrivik up with the Flames you have no NHL prospects or even Tweeners on the club; just life time AHL centers; I doubt few here on FN could name your center icemen. Your team will have to find a way to stay in the playoff hunt util the big club gets healthy and they send Hrivik back down and the CHL season comes to an end and some of the prospects playoffs end and they sign ATO’s; can you hang on that long?

          • Stockton's Finest

            I really hope we can hold on. Defense and goaltending has kept them in this race. They need to play almost flawless to have a chance.

            Last week the team stepped up and being hammered. Let’s hope that they do it again tonight.

            Beginning with the New Year’s game, the team has gone 3-5-0-1. Remarkably they are still in 2nd, but every team is over. 500 in the division. They go on a 3 game losing streak and they drop to 6th.

            As for penalties, with the exception of last night, they haven’t been too many bad ones. Some lazy hooks when chasing a breakaway, the occasional high stick and slashing. Last night the zebras called Shinkaruk for a 4-minute high stick about a minutr after they play was done. With him in the box, Goloubef took a slashing call. Ontario scores which should have sent him out of the box and reduced Shinkaruk’s penalty to 2 minutes. But instead they kept Goloubef’s time as is and reduced Shinkaruk’s time to 2 minutes. Of course they scored as Goloubef stepped on the ice. At least they reviewed and cleared the box. But two 5-3 goals is what chased Gillies. Plus it gives him some rest so they can trot him out again tonight.

            Little stuff like constantly failing to clear the zone, passes behind skaters, over-passing the puck, not getting in front of the net will continue to plague this team until they start playing with urgency.

            Lomberg clearly gets it. He was all over the ice last night. He took a high stick to the face (which wasn’t called and occurred right in front of the blind mice) but he shook it off and continued to try to boost the team.

            Foo is catching that spirit too. He has been going to the net and looking for those juicy rebounds. To me, he tends to hesitate about a half second which allows players to get in shooting lanes or the goalie to square up.

            25 shots on goal, most coming from the for out, is not a path to success. Experienced players like Pelley, Gazdic, and Proud need to be more vocal and active. Pelley and Gazdic wear letters: time to start using them to fire up this team.

  • slapshot444

    On another note, with RNH out in Edmonton for 5 weeks its time for the NHL to make a “tank and get a good pick rule” so they don’t get yet another first round pick.