With one last pre-season game on the schedule, time is running out for Calgary Flames hopefuls to make an impact on coach Bob Hartley and the management staff.
As Hartley puts it, tonight’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome is the final exam.
“Being a professional, you have to be the best you can be and show your abilities and come in with good working habits and playing a good game,” Hartley said. “For Sven (Baertschi), for Corban Knight, for (Sean) Monahan, for all those kids playing, it’s the same rule.”
As much as the game against the Coyotes is a final showcase for the kids, it’s about setting a tone and developing a winning attitude, too.
“We’re playing, we’re coaching to win,” Hartley said. “Obviously we’re still working parts of our game which is perfectly normal, but we’re just a few days away from the season opener. We’re playing this like a real game. We’ll coach this like a real game. We want the players to come in with the same mind set we had against the (New York) Rangers the other night.”
Knight has heard Hartley’s ‘final exam’ comment.
He feels he’s well prepared for the test.
“He’s used that phrase a couple times,” Knight said. “The fact that this is the last exhibition game, the last chance to show management and the coaching staff that you belong here. It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking but it’s exciting. You’ve trained your whole life for this moment and you’re going to have 60 minutes to try to prove it.
“It’s exciting. It’ll be an exciting game out there tonight.”
Knight feels he’s come a long way since playing just a handful of minutes in his exhibition debut against the Edmonton Oilers and has used each game as a learning experience in preparation of Hartley’s final.
“It’s been one of those things where it is an eye-opening experience just seeing how high the level is here and how hard guys push each other and how good guys are,” he said. “You watch NHL on TV for years and it doesn’t really do it justice how good guys are. To be here, being with these guys every day, it’s pushed me to try to be better.”
BACKLUND ‘LEFT’ OUT
“We have an overload of centres so I sat with Backs and I told him I wanted him to play and at the same time, I think it’s a great experience for Backs because he probably never played left wing,” Hartley said. “Now he’s going to be on the wing.”
Backlund, who played the left side in Sweden during the work stoppage, is curious to see how he’ll fare at the position against NHL competition.
“I played left during the lockout so it’s a little familiar but it’s different,” he said. “I haven’t done it on a small rink since I can’t remember when. It will be fun.”
Hartley made sure Backlund knew it wasn’t an audition and that he’ll be returning to his more familiar spot down the middle soon.
“We had a good talk about it so I understand why he wants to do it,” Backlund said. “I’m excited to try it and it’ll be a good challenge tonight.”
HARTLEY LIKES HYBRID ICING
When it comes to the hybrid icing debate, count Hartley on the side that likes the change. He understands why there could be some opposition to it, though.
“I like it but it’s like anything,” he said. “Any changes you want to bring into a hockey game or in society, the normal human reaction is right away ‘we don’t like it’.
“If the hybrid icing saves one injury this year, it’s worth it.”
The rule was implemented at the AHL level last season with the intention of studying the rule before potentially implementing it at the NHL level. The initial reaction at the minor league level wasn’t positive but soon grew on coaches, explained Hartley.
“Last year I was talking to some American Hockey League coaches,” he said. “For the first two weeks, they hated it. Then by Christmas, everyone loved it.”
TJ Brodie said it doesn’t take long to adapt.
“It’s not that hard to get used to defensively,” he said. “No matter what, you’ve got to skate back for the puck.
The bigger change for Brodie comes on the other side of the puck.
Always looking to create offense, the defenceman said hybrid icing can sometimes limit his options.
“I think I found offensively, sometimes there’s times where you might ice it but your guy is going to get to it first,” he said. “Since the D is a little bit further back they’ll blow it down where before it might rim around the boards and end up going to your forward (on the other side).
“Offensively, it might prevent a couple of waved off icings but defensively it’s pretty much the same, just turn around and skate and try to get to the puck as fast as you can.”
Brodie isn’t sure where he sits on the decision to switch from touch icing to the hybrid format.
“Really it doesn’t make a whole big difference to me,” he said.
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