On Jan. 18, the Flames and Canucks started their respective fourth lines and within seconds of the game starting, 142 penalty minutes were dished out thanks to a line brawl that featured all 10 skaters dropping the gloves.
So, the big question heading into tonight's tilt is just who is head coach Bob Hartley going to start against the Canucks.
"I don't know yet. I'll check it," he grinned. "I always sit with Jacques [Cloutier] and Marty [Gelinas] so we'll see. And the opening lineup ... what's the difference between the opening lineup and the second line. What's the big difference?
"I think I've tried over the past 15 or 20 games to share it between the four lines. Guys are working hard. Guys are having fun. We're a tight group so we're trying to share responsibilities and guys are answering well. I think they like it."
The Flames face off against the Canucks at 8:00 PM MST.
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.”
CALGARY, AB -- Joe Colborne may have lightened Mikael Backlund’s wallet a little bit, but it was locker room attendant Ben Dumaine who made the only Swede on the Calgary Flames roster pay the biggest price.
Backlund was sporting a Hockey Canada t-shirt post-practice on Sunday, the result of a bet struck Saturday over lunch between he and Dumaine.
“This wasn’t Joe; we had some cash going” said Backlund, looking the shirt. “This was with Benny. I was hoping he would have to wear a Team Sweden jersey on the bench but I guess it didn’t happen.”
Jonathan Toews’ first period marker held up as the eventual winner after Carey Price made 24 saves to earn the shutout in the eventual 3-0 Canadian win to capture Olympic gold. Sidney Crosby added his first of the tournament late in the second period while Chris Kunitz capped the scoring in the third to give Canada their second consecutive first-place finish at the tournament.
It also gave Dumaine bragging rights over the 24-year-old native of Vasteras, SWE.
“He said if Sweden won, I’d have to wear a stinky Sweden shirt he had lying around his house for a whole week,” Dumaine detailed. “I said, ‘Okay, you can wear my Canada shirt all week’. Luckily it worked out for me. I told him he had to wear it for interviews and all the time in the room.”
A gracious winner, Dumaine made sure the Canadian garment was freshly pressed.
“I was being a nice guy,” he said. “I knew he was going to have to wear it for a week.”
“McGrattan and Glencross skated this morning,” coach Bob Hartley said. “Things are looking up. We’re getting healthy but at the same time, you know how this business operates.”
Glencross has missed 22 games after sustaining a high ankle sprain just 37 seconds into Calgary’s 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 21. The 31-year-old has had a trying season on the injury front. He also missed 15 games earlier in the year with a second degree MCL sprain.
McGrattan, meanwhile, was injured in practice on Thursday after catching a rut on the ice, sending him crashing hard into the end boards.
Hartley wasn’t sure if either would be an option when the Flames resume their schedule against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s too early to say.”
CALGARY, AB -- Just a few minutes into Calgary Flames practice at Stew Hendry Arena, defenseman TJ Brodie brought action to a shattering halt.
Skating around and firing pucks to loosen up before practice officially got underway, Brodie sent a seemingly harmless wrister over the net, sending a single pane of glass into thousands of pieces as teammates roared and tapped their sticks in approval.
A sheepish Brodie admitted to being the culprit back at Scotiabank Saddledome following the skate.
“It wasn’t on purpose but too bad it wasn’t a little later in practice to get a little break,” he said.
But after the break in glass -- which was subsequently replaced by a sheet of wood -- Brodie wasn’t ready to boast about having the heaviest shot on Calgary’s blue line.
“Definitely not,” he said. “I think it was just the spot I hit. It was cold in there too so I’m sure that helped.”