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What we learned from Week One of Phase Three

The Calgary Flames were off on Saturday and they end the first week of Phase 3 training camp with a Sunday scrimmage. The club’s players and coaches have put in a full workweek in already to prepare the team for their trek to Edmonton in a week for Phase 4.

So what have we learned so far?

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Absences

Dillon Dube and Buddy Robinson were absent from all five days of on-ice work. Derek Ryan skated on Monday but left the first group’s practice, though he was skating on his own later in the week. Mikael Backlund left the first group’s practice mid-session and missed a day of on-ice, but returned before the end of the week.

Lines!

Via Sportsnet 960’s Pat Steinberg, a fine man, here are lines from Friday’s two groups:

Early Group:

Quine-Monahan-Lindholm
Tkachuk-Backlund-Rieder
Yelesin-Ruzicka-Czarnik
Gawdin-Froese-Phillips

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Giordano-Brodie
Forbort-Gustafsson
Kylington-Stone
Valimaki-Mackey

Rittich
Gillies
Zagidulin

Late Group:

Gaudreau-Jankowski-Mangiapane
Lucic-Bennett-Rinaldo

Hanifin-Andersson

Talbot

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So far, there hasn’t been cross-over between the groups but we’re expecting to see that happen this week.

Guesswork combined lines

When the two groups combine, here’s what I’m expecting to see based on the partial groups so far:

Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm
Tkachuk-Backlund-Mangiapane
Lucic-Ryan-Dube
Bennett-Jankowski-Rieder/Rinaldo
Quine-Ruzicka-Czarnik
Gawdin-Froese-Phillips

Maybe Sam Bennett plays fourth line center based on his first week, though?

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Giordano-Brodie
Hanifin-Andersson
Forbort-Gustafsson
Kylington-Stone
Valimaki-Yelesin
Mackey

Rittich/Talbot
Gillies
Zagidulin

Which goalie plays?

So far, no clarity on goaltending. Heck, so far Flames coaches have praised both David Rittich and Cam Talbot when chatting with the media. (It’s not like we expected them to bury either guy, but there aren’t any hints of one guy having an edge.)

Everyone loves Connor Mackey

Assistant coach Ryan Huska was on Sportsnet 960 with Pat on Friday. Huska had extremely nice things to say about Mackey’s performances thus far.

There’s a talent there. There really is a talent there… He’s gonna play for us next year, there’s no doubt in my mind. Some way, shape or form. Whether it’s two games, whether it’s 20 games, whether it’s 50 games, he’s gonna play NHL games because he’s got size, he skate, and his hockey sense that we’ve noticed here has been really, really good.

Mackey’s not eligible to play in this year’s playoffs since he wasn’t on the Flames’ reserve list as of the trade deadline (and his deal doesn’t begin until 2020-21). But he is emerging as a legitimate left side option for the club.

The plan for Week Two

The Flames did a lot of drills and teaching in the first week of camp. Here’s Huska (with Pat) with the why:

You can be doing a little bit more talking, coaching at this phase but as we taper down and as we get towards going to Edmonton… we don’t want to do a lot of… teaching them new things. We want them just to play. And in particular the first round of play, our play-in round, that’s going to be so important because when our guys get on the ice, we want them to use their instincts, we want them to play and we want them to play fast. And a lot of times, they do that when they’re feeling good about their game and they don’t think, they just go out there and do it.

This is the coaching staff’s first time to get everybody together in one place, particularly for Geoff Ward as head coach – he took over as interim bench boss in November, so he hasn’t yet had this much time in his current role just to teach and work with the players, especially the Stockton bunch.

But the second week, starting with Sunday’s scrimmage, is likely to be more filled with game situations. The goal is that the players won’t need to do much thinking about what they’ve been taught in the first week, they can just translate it in-game.

On the horizon

The Flames head up to Edmonton on July 25 or 26. They play an exhibition game on July 28, then open their qualifying round series with Winnipeg on August 1.

There’s only one week of practice and prep left before the games get a lot more serious.