Flames Today: 25.01.14

Saturday, 25.01.2014 / 4:19 PM
Aaron Vickers  - CalgaryFlames.com (@aavickers)

BERRA AUTOMATIC

Reto Berra wasn't expecting to play on Friday but when he was called upon, he was key.

Berra stopped 12 of 13 shots in just over 33 minutes of action after relieving starter Karri Ramo to help lift the Calgary Flames to a 5-4 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators.

After the Flames pushed the game beyond regulation, he went on to deny three of four Nashville skaters -- including an amazing pad save off Ryan Ellis for the clincher -- to improve to 4-0 in the shootout on his career.

"I know in the past I did really good in shootouts, so for sure it gives me a confidence push before the shootout,” Berra said. “But it’s not like I think ‘oh, we have two points’. It’s not like that because it’s still tough.

“There’s some really skilled players and Europe, they’re good too, but here I think they’re a little bit better. It’s always a big challenge for me, still, but for sure, I’m confident for shootouts.”

Berra has stopped 16 of 21 to record the third-highest shootout save percentage in the league among goaltenders who have faced 20 or more shooters.

His latest shootout success came with some special guests in attendance, too.

His mother Liz and sister Graziella arrived in time for the game from Switzerland on their first trip to North America.

“They were really happy for me and so happy I had ice time and we won at the end in a shootout,” Berra said. “It was great.

“They said it was so crazy and special and everything. They’ve never seen a big stadium like that. It was almost the first time they were out of Europe and for sure the first time at an NHL game live. They said it was so different than watching it on TV with all the time breaks and lots of things you don’t see when you watch it on TV.”

KEEPIN’ IT LIGHT

On the heels of the emotional come-from-behind victory over the Predators, Flames coach Bob Hartley opted to keep things light at practice Saturday.

Team captains Lee Stempniak and David Jones divided up Calgary’s club into two teams and Hartley put the split-squads through a best-of-three buffet of drills to determine the victors.

A day of games for his crew was important, Hartley said.

“This was a fun day but at the same time, I think that the priority was to make sure that everyone was having a good time,” he said. “But we still put in a pretty good 45 minutes of work.”

Practiced opened with some light skating before turning into a 3-on-0 drill in which teams had to outrace the other to score twice. Calgary’s standard shootout drill followed before Hartley threw something unique at his players -- a baseball-esque test.

One skater had to ‘bat’ the puck into play then race to center and back twice before the opposing team could score on the defenseless goaltender. Four passes had to be completed before firing the first shot, though.

“That’s one of the favorite drills that I use at my hockey camp,” Hartley said. “Every junior team that I’ve coached, American League AHL team, we always find a way to have fun and it’s great. It’s good work for the goalies, there’s a little skating, lots of passing plus more importantly, there’s fun.

“We’re not playing until Tuesday so I thought to give the boys a little skate.”

Jones’ team ended up the victors.

DIRTY AREAS

In an effort to generate more havoc in front of the net, Hartley stressed some net-front presence on the power play against Nashville.

It’s hard to argue the results. Calgary went 3-for-5 with the man-advantage.

“We want to create better screens in front of the net,” Hartley said. “I’m not happy. Players are well aware of our net presence. We have lots of guys that they’re at the net, they’re on the outside of the net. Goalies are too good. Look every day. Watch the sports news, watch how goals are scored.”

If anyone knows the value of some net traffic, it’s Hartley.

He had plenty of opportunities to watch former Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom torment Patrick Roy when Hartley coached the Colorado Avalanche.

“When I think about screens, I still have real bad memories of Tomas Holmstrom screening Patrick Roy so many years and [Nicklas] Lidstrom shooting sometimes wrist shots from the blue line and Patrick Roy wouldn’t even move. He didn’t even have a clue that the puck was going.

“[Saturday] night, you look at our first goal, [Giordano]’s goal, that’s exactly what happened. If it takes [Bouma], I’ll put Boums and if I have to put big [Brian McGrattan] or [Kevin Westgarth] in front of the net, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Right now, this is the easiest way to score goals. If a goalie doesn’t see it, I like our chances.”

QUOTABLE

“Just tell him to right now unplug. Things are not going well for Wides but at the same time, I told him that, hey, sometimes you’re on the ice and things don’t go your way, pucks end up in your net and you’re not kind of the responsible guy. I said, ‘enjoy today, enjoy tomorrow’s day off and Monday lets go back to work’. We definitely need a guy like Dennis Wideman.”

-Hartley

COMING UP

The Flames return to practice on Monday in advance of Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. MST, TSN, Sportsnet 960 The Fan) at Scotiabank Saddledome.

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