After coming off a four-game, seven-day road trip with just two of a possible eight points, the Calgary Flames returned to practice on Sunday to some good news.
Lee Stempniak is close.
Sidelined since October 24th with a broken foot, Stempniak returned to full practice alongside teammates and could play as early as Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks, pending medical clearance.
“I felt pretty good,” Stempniak said post-practice. “I skated the last few days and today was obviously the first with the guys. It’s just fun to be out there and I’m that much closer to playing in a game, hopefully.”
The 30-year-old has missed the past seven games for the Flames, who have gone 2-5-0 in his absence.
Stempniak, who has four goals and nine points in 10 games, is cautiously optimistic he’ll be back to help the Flames snap a three-game losing skid.
“It’s up to the coaches and the medical staff,” said Stempniak, who diagnosed himself as day-to-day. “Every day it’s been getting better but a lot of it depends on how it responds the next morning, make sure it doesn’t swell and make sure it feels good. I’ll wake up and re-assess tomorrow morning.”
How that assessment goes will likely dictate his return.
“The medical staff will meet with him and evaluate him,” coach Bob Hartley said. “They gave us permission to have him full practice today. That’s a pretty big step.
“He’s getting close. You saw him today, full practice. If he’s full practice, he’s close. You look at the conditioning that he showed. It’s pretty good.”
Stempniak wasn’t the only new, old face on the ice at Scotiabank Saddledome. Christopher Breen also made his return to practice.
His situation is not unlike Stempniak’s, according to Hartley.
“Breen, the same situation,” he said. “The doctors gave him permission to go all out today and so after this, we’re going to wait for the final green light.”
Breen has missed action with an abdominal wall strain. He's played in two games this season for the Flames.
BACKLUND SHOWING SPARK
Mikael Backlund’s been asked by Hartley to get a little offensive.
He did just that Friday, assisting on both goals from Mike Cammalleri in Calgary’s 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
“Backs played an unbelievable game,” Hartley said. “I could tell that the last couple of games, his skating was getting back. When this guy skates, defensively he’s very responsible. I think offensively, and I shared this with you before, I told him I think he’s focusing so much on his defensive part of the game that sometimes he forgets that he’s a pretty talented player.
“I don’t want to take this away from him. He can bring it. You look at the passing plays he did with Huds and Cammy, those were great NHL plays.”
With a pair of assists in the contest, Backlund has pushed his season totals to two goals and six points in 16 games.
“Cammy has been unbelievable. Cammy has been on fire. Every puck that he’s touching goes in the net. He’s a great leader for us. This guy missed two, three weeks and he came right from the start and just never missed a beat. Cammy showed up to camp in great shape. I think that he’s very comfortable around his teammates, around us and he’s obviously a big part of this hockey club.”
-Hartley on Cammalleri
The Flames practice again on Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m. MT, SNET-W).
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