CALGARY, AB -- Twenty-four hours ago, he was a member of the Quinnipiac Bobcats.
On Saturday, forward Bryce Van Brabant became the newest member of the Calgary Flames.
After Quinnipiac was eliminated by Providence College in the NCAA East Regional semifinal Friday, Van Brabant signed a two-year entry-level contract with an average annual value of $1,350,000 per season with the Flames.
"Obviously I'm disappointed on how last night turned out, so right now it’s a bittersweet moment with the loss, " the Morinville, AB native said. "I'm excited to be joining the Calgary Flames, and I want to thank everyone involved at Quinnipiac.
“Without them I couldn't have imagined this being a possibility."
In signing a deal with the Flames, Van Brabant will forgo his senior season at Quinnipiac.
In 40 games this season, he recorded 15 goals and 22 points -- both career highs. His 113 penalty minutes were also a single season best. In all, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder had 24 goals and 42 points in 115 games in the ECAC.
Prior to attending Quinnipiac, the 22-year-old spent three seasons playing for the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, scoring 22 goals and 47 points in 151 career games.
Van Brabant will join the Flames, who embark on a five-game road trip starting Sunday against the Ottawa Senators. His debut is expected to come later in the week and will mark the first time a Quinnipiac alum will appear in an NHL game.
PHOENIX, AZ -- After rolling out mainstays Joe Colborne, Mike Cammalleri and Sean Monahan as his first three shooters, Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley was looking for something different in Friday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars.
He found it in the rookie.
“I was looking at our first three shooters and that was a given and then I thought that maybe we’d give a different look to (Stars goaltender) Tim Thomas,” Hartley said. “I went down and I know that Ben Hanowski can be pretty sneaky around the net too so I asked them, I said ‘Are you regular shooters’ and Benny right away said ‘I can go, but Knighter’s real good’. I said ‘alright, you’re up. If we go to the fourth guy, you’re up’.
“He made an unbelievable move.”
In just his sixth NHL game -- one that saw him skate just three third period shifts and no spins in overtime -- Corban Knight was on the hook with the contest on his stick.
“I was just sitting there enjoying the view and all of a sudden I get tapped and it kind of threw a kink in that," Knight said. "It was pretty cool to go out and do that.
“Instant nerves. It’s amazing how fast my body reacted. It was about a millisecond after he touched me I started shaking. It was pretty nice to have the coach tap you and get a chance to help the team out. It was pretty cool."
He didn’t disappoint, deking to his forehand before uncorking a shot that beat the 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner to send the Flames to Phoenix in jovial fashion.
“It’s basically the only move in my repertoire,” said Knight, 3-for-5 with the Abbotsford Heat this season in the shootout. “It’s kind of nice it worked on my first try."
In his first taste of NHL action, the firsts have continued to pile up for Knight.
The High River, AB native skated in his first NHL game on March 5 and recorded his first NHL goal Wednesday.
A shootout winner Friday caps an impressive nine-day stint that isn't lost on the 23-year-old.
“Just the fact that just over a week ago I was playing my first NHL game and the fact the team is playing well right now, it’s special to be a part of it," Knight said. "The guys are great and make you feel at home here. It’s definitely been a great experience.
"I’m just trying to soak in as much as I can.”
CALGARY, AB -- Curtis Glencross is the first to admit it’s been a trying season for the 31-year-old.
Having played just 21 games after missing two segments of the season with knee and ankle injuries, the 6-foot-1, 197-pound forward is ready for challenges -- both mental and physical -- when he returns to the Calgary Flames lineup against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
“I'm sure I'll be a little timid out there, but hopefully I'll get in early in the first few shifts, get banging around and get in some of the areas you might not feel too comfortable in,” Glencross said. “But you have to overcome that.”
It might be easier said than done.
Having missed 15 games with a second-degree MCL sprain earlier in the year and more recently recovered from a high ankle sprain that forced him out of 29 contests, the normally rugged Glencross admitted his toughest opponent to getting up to speed is himself.
“It's more the mental thing, the confidence thing, knowing I'm healed and recovered and all good,” said Glencross, who does have six goals and 12 points when in the lineup. “These games are important for leadership, we have a lot of young guys and have to keep building. These guys are the future of this organization and us veterans have to stick with them guys and help them any way we can.”
It can be equally helpful to the grizzled vet, too. Glencross’ injury bug bite extends back to last year when the Kindersley, SK native was forced to miss the final four games of the 2012-13 season with another knee injury.
With 17 games remaining on the docket for the Flames, Glencross has the chance to set an early, healthier tone for next season.
“He’ll have a chance to get back,” coach Bob Hartley said. “We want him to have a strong finish of the season. That’s the most important thing.”
Glencross knows it too.
“It's not the year I've wanted, injury-wise,” he said. “I've only played 21 games this year, so I want to take these last games and make the best of them to take strides for next year.”
CALGARY, AB -- Fall off the horse? Get back on.
That was Kevin Westgarth’s thought heading into Wednesday as he prepares to return to the lineup against the Anaheim Ducks after a concussion forced the 30-year-old to miss the past five games.
“You can’t let that change the way you play,” Westgarth said. “Everybody’s different and guys that get injured sometimes lose that sense of invincibility and other guys, honestly, it might help them out because they realize they have to work harder to stay at the top of their game so it doesn’t happen.
“You can’t tell until you’re back in a fight or something. I’m not too worried about it. It’s something that’s always been, to be honest, a lot of fun and comes relatively naturally. When I get back, I’ll get right back on the horse.”
He’ll get the opportunity to on Wednesday when the Flames host the visiting Ducks at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Coach Bob Hartley confirmed Tuesday that Westgarth will draw back into the lineup, which will mark his first appearance since a scary scene on March 1st.
Westgarth squared off with the Edmonton Oilers’ Luke Gazdic. The spirited bout was abruptly ended when Gazdic caught Westgarth with a stiff right, buckling the Flames forward before sending him to the ice. He needed help getting off the ice from teammates and returned to Calgary as the Flames continued on their two-game road trip to Minnesota.
“I was pretty lucky all things considered,” Westgarth said. “Obviously if we’re talking to guys who have gone through other head injuries, the result was pretty normal very soon after so I was pretty lucky that way.
“Even my initial SCAT right after was pretty decent, kind of very good, I suppose. I got through all the testing and it was back to baseline. I haven’t had headaches or anything, maybe just the day after, a minor one. I’m pretty lucky.”
CALGARY, AB -- It was only a couple of spins around the rink, but Karri Ramo has finally returned to the ice.
The Calgary Flames goaltender, who what’s being described as a lower body injury, skated for the first time since sustaining the injury in Calgary’s 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 1.
“Today is the first skate and it was just to see where we’re at right now,” Ramo said Tuesday. “What I’ve done off ice, everything’s felt really good. We decided to put the gear on and go on the ice and see what I can do and can’t do yet. We move forward on that and probably I think every day now I’ll get some more and more ice time and see how it goes.”
It wasn’t an exhausting workout, but the quick jaunt represented progress for the 27-year-old keeper, who left the game against the Wild late in the first period.
“I didn’t really do anything. I just skated around a few laps and got on my knees and moved around a little bit,” Ramo said. “It felt good. As far as getting back to practice, we haven’t set any dates yet. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning and see when we can have a little more work on the ice.”
The timing of the injury couldn’t have been worse for Ramo, who had won three straight decisions and allowed fewer than three goals in four of his past five appearances. The stretch improved his record on the season to 11-10-4 with a 2.66 goals against average and .908 save percentage.
It didn’t get the native of Asikkala, Finland down, though.
“You still have to be positive,” Ramo said. “You also have to take advantage of it when you’re not on the ice. You have time to work on stuff off the ice that you can’t do when you are on the ice.”
Though there are just 21 games remaining on the Flames docket, the goaltender is set to ensure he’s completely ready before stepping back into the crease.
After all, there isn’t much time for a setback with just six weeks remaining on the schedule.
“The way I see it is that I try to just make sure that everything is 100 percent before I come back so that there’s not going to be any setbacks,” Ramo said. “There’s not much time left so I just want to get back to 100 percent before I come back at all.”
CALGARY, AB -- It didn’t take a Princeton University alumnus to know how fortunate Kevin Westgarth is. He’s more than aware.
Buckled by a right cross courtesy Edmonton Oilers pugilist Luke Gazdik at Rexall Place on Saturday, the Calgary Flames forward went down hard before being helped off the ice by a pair of teammates, legs still wobbly.
“It obviously looked pretty bad but I was pretty lucky with the result,” Westgarth said Tuesday. “I felt great today starting the protocol coming back on the ice, starting to get a little exercise in today. We’ve got our fingers crossed. We got a pretty good result today.
“I watched (the replay). It was kind of what I thought I did. It was pretty ugly. I got out of it relatively unscathed in the big picture.”
The consensual scrap, just one second after Sean Monahan opened the scoring midway through the first period, was the third in Westgarth’s tenure with the Flames.
With 29 career tilts under his belt, it likely isn’t his last, either.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” the 30-year-old said. “Fortunately that’s the first time it’s ever happened. I don’t plan on making it a routine by any stretch. Live by the sword. I made a mistake and [Gazdik] made me pay for it.”
ST. PAUL, MN -- For his first start in nearly a month, Reto Berra showed little in the way of rust.
The netminder stopped 20 of 21 shots in his return to the crease to help the Calgary Flames to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Edmonton Oilers in the ‘Battle of Alberta’ on Saturday.
“I felt really good, especially after a long break. It was a long time ago since I played the last time,” said Berra, whose last start came on Feb. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers. “I was a little nervous and stuff but I liked it and I had good focus and everything. The guys played so good in front of me. I had some rebounds but my players were there and cleaned it up for me.”
Berra, who improved his record to 9-16-2 with a 2.94 goals against average and .898 save percentage with the effort, almost earned his first career NHL shutout in the win.
The 27-year-old was flawless through the first 49:43 of regulation before David Perron’s 23rd of the year tied the game for the Oilers, forcing overtime and eventual heroics with Sean Monahan’s second goal of the game just 1:50 into the extra frame.
A blanking, though, wasn’t on the mind of the Bulach native who represented Switzerland at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“I was not thinking shutout,” Berra said. “This season, we’ve had so many games 1-0 like that. It’s tough to think shutout. I never do that. Maybe somewhere back in your mind, but you think puck, puck, puck. You watch the puck and think puck. Nothing else.”
Admittedly, though, Berra was thinking about beating the Oilers and with Berra’s help, the Flames evened the ‘Battle of Alberta’. Both clubs have won two games in the best-of-five this season.
That wasn’t lost on the goalie despite the fact the first-year North American pro was just introduced to the battle earlier this year.
“(It’s) especially motivating,” said Berra, who has allowed just six goals in four games against Edmonton this season. “You want to win that. You want to win this rivalry, for sure. I know it’s hard to say why, but maybe you have better focus because it’s rivalry.”
It’s a rivalry unlike one he’s seen before.
The 6-foot-4 keeper said the intensity of the ‘Battle of Alberta’ was at a level he hadn’t experienced before in his career prior to coming to the National Hockey League this season.
“It’s pretty special,” Berra said. “I’m so happy that I can play here and everything.
“We’ve got rivalries too (in Switzerland). We call them derbies.”
EDMONTON, AB -- There was plenty from Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers that Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley enjoyed seeing.
Kevin Westgarth motionless on the ice after squaring off with Luke Gazdik wasn’t one of them.
At the end of a lengthy scrap between the two heavyweights midway through the first period, Gazdik connected with a fist that caught Westgarth square in the face, buckling the Flames forward before he fell and hit his head on the ice.
“It’s far from being easy. It’s a nightmare,” Hartley said. “Even on the other side, there’s rivalries, we’re all competitors but at the same time, we never want injuries during games.
“Two tough guys and suddenly I looked at center ice and they were both squaring off. They’re two willing combatants and unfortunately he got hit. That kid’s a tough kid.”
Westgarth fell and officials immediately signaled for Flames trainers before the 6-foot-4, 234-pound winger was helped off the ice by teammates. He did not return to the game.
Mark Giordano said Westgarth was feeling better after the contest.
“Both guys were throwing good punches and I thought it started out Westy got the better of him at the start and towards the end of it, he got caught with one I think,” Giordano said. “Everyone saw what happened. It’s a tough job to stick up for us like that and I thought he did a great job. He’s feeling alright now so it’s good to see.
“The bottom line at the end of the day, you care more about the person. When you see something like that, you just hope he recovers quickly and can get back into the lineup.”
Westgarth is expected to return to Calgary for further observation.
The Flames travel to Minnesota on Sunday to take on the Wild on Monday.
CALGARY, AB -- Calgary Flames defenceman Chris Butler doesn’t need a calendar to know the National Hockey League’s trade deadline is just eight days away.
He’s more than aware that March 5th looms and that, as an unrestricted free agent at seasons end, his tenure in Calgary could be drawing to a close.
“You do think about it a little bit,” Butler said. “I think it’s just human nature. I think situations handle themselves as long as you do your job as a professional.”
Butler signed a one-year, $1.7 million contract last July that will expire at the end of the season. Though his future is unclear, there’s one thing the 27-year-old is certain of.
He hopes to remain a member of the Flames.
“I enjoy playing here and my goal is to stay here,” Butler said.
“I love coming to the rink and being around these guys,” Butler said. “I think we’ve got a pretty special group. This year we’ve got a completely different feel than years past. We’ve really gelled and that run we had before the break was a testament to the hard work the guys have put in this year. It’s a fun environment to be in but March 5th is part of the business and you have to be prepared for those things.”
In 58 games this season, Butler has two goals and 10 points and is a minus-16. In three seasons with the Flames, the St. Louis, MO product has five goals and 33 points in 170 games.
CALGARY, AB -- Game action can’t come soon enough for the Calgary Flames.
“Sometimes emotions get high at practice and things happen,” Stajan said. “It was nothing. I don’t think we need to blow it up here. It’s a little pushing and shoving. It happens all the time. I think we’re all antsy here to get back to playing games. You can ask anybody in this room. We’re going to be ready for Thursday.”
“I think you do get a bit of cabin fever from time to time,” Butler added. “I think we’re ready and excited to get back playing again.”
Coach Bob Hartley, who had a front row seat for the fracas, said the dust-up wasn’t necessarily a bad sign for his club.
“Right now, we’re telling them playoff mentality, playoff mentality,” he said. “It was like two brothers fighting for their Tonka truck in the sandbox.
“We want competitors. That’s what we’re preaching. That’s what we’re getting. I can’t be here saying it’s something that I don’t want to see.
“You appreciate the feistiness and everything but you don’t want to get it overboard. They just both turned around and later on they each gave a tap on their pads. It’s water under the bridge.”
The Flames host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, their first game since wrapping up their pre-Olympic schedule on Feb. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers. When the puck drops, it’ll mark the first game action they’ve played in 19 days.
“I think the whole league is probably feeling that right now,” Stajan said. “The guys that have the time off, when you practice for this long after you’ve played so many games you want to get back at it. That’s where our focus is and that’s where our practices are geared towards -- getting us ready. That’s the plan.”