Flames Today: 19.09.10

Chatting with Ales Kotalik, Niklas Hagman & Brent Sutter

Sunday, 19.09.2010 / 4:03 PM / Flames Today
By Torie Peterson  - CalgaryFlames.com (@toriepeterson)
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Flames Today: 19.09.10
CONSISTENCY IS KEY

After missing the first on-ice session of training camp, Niklas Hagman was back on the ice on Sunday. Skating on a line with Rene Bourque and Matt Stajan, the Finn showed no signs of lingering illness. After finishing up on the ice, and showing off his soft hands with a beautiful top-shelf goal on Miikka Kiprusoff, Hagman addressed why he did not skate on Saturday.

"I missed the second day. I did the testing. I'd have rather of missed that day," he smiled, showing some of the dry humor he's becoming known for. "I had a little upset stomach, a little flu so it was cautious, for the other guys too. It was fun to go on the ice again and get things going again."

The next order of business for Hagman was to deal with questions of his offensive consistency. Head coach Brent Sutter told the media it was something the forward needed to work on throughout the season.

"I think the biggest thing with Hags is consistency - getting it every night from him ... playing to his potential on a nightly basis," Sutter said. "It's a situation now where we have him for a full year here and we want Hags to have a good start. He's an important part of our top nine group and our top six group."

When Hagman was told what his coach had said, he concured.

"I totally agree on that. I hope and try to play well, try to score some goals, on side set up some other guys to get some points too. That's one way to help the team. Consistency is one thing that I've got to do a little bit better. I'll try to work every night."

The winger knows the first portion of the season is the easy part and recognizes he needs to have stability to his game later on.

"Down the stretch, when it comes to December and January, it is a little bit tougher when you play a lot of games, mentally and physically. You just try to focus on every shift and on every shift, just try and do your best."

Hagman admitted that being traded last season was hard on him and his ability to produce. Now that he's settled in Calgary, he believes his offensive output will be much more steady.

"Last year, it was a little tough coming in midway through the season. Now, getting to know the guys a little bit better and getting training camp in and all that stuff is going to help. Hopefully things go well."

A KOTALIK COMEBACK

The 2009-10 season is not a year Ales Kotalik wants to be remembered for. The embattled winger put up just 11 goals and 27 points in 71 games and his underwhelming performance is something he shakes his head at when it is mentioned.

"The last year was a subpar season for me but you just can't take it back. A lot of things didn't happen the way I thought they were going to happen.

"On the other hand, this is the chance to bounce back."

Last season took its toll emotionally and mentally on Kotalik so he spent the entire offseason working to make sure he would not have another season like it.

"I trained for almost the whole summer. I just took a couple weeks off. I just wanted to make sure I came ready and feel strong on the physical side. That's what I did."

Kotalik is looking forward to playing in the Flames first preseason contest on Tuesday and getting back into game form.

"I've been in couple exhibition games back home over the summer with some other NHL guys, like charity games. But that's different. This is going to be high-tempo," he said. "For me, this is no different than the NHL (regular season) games. When I play, I want to play hard and I want to prove that I can be a valuable player for this team."

The right winger is positive the Flames are going to surprise quite a few people this season, saying that motivation to have a comeback season is not just driving him but the team as a whole.

"I think we have more guys than just myself that want to prove that last season wasn't their best. Hopefully we'll have a chance to do that."

THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE BRIGHT ON THE BLUELINE

While the Flames blueline is a battlefield this season, with the likes of Matt Pelech and John Negrin trying to uproot a veteran for a roster spot, head coach Brent Sutter said there was another player that will be turning a lot of heads in the very-near future.

Sutter took some time after practice to talk about T.J. Brodie, the 20 year-old blueliner who put up 55 points in 65 games in the OHL last season.

"He looks really good. He's a very talented defenseman who can really skate, move the puck, has great hockey sense. I thought at the rookie tournament, he was one of the best defensemen there, in that whole tournament."

Sutter pointed to Brodie's skating skill and his hockey sense when asked how the defenseman has catapulted so high up the Flames depth chart in such a short period of time.

"One thing with Brods is that he's coming out of junior hockey where he was an outstanding offensive defenseman and when you look at him as a defenseman, you can understand why he was," Sutter said.

"His skating ability is great. He's got such great hockey sense. He's a really smart player and I personally think a very good defenseman."

The Flames head coach also noted that scouting staff had done an excellent job in finding the Chantham, Ont. native and seeing the hole he could fill within the club.

"There's not someone like that within the organization the way he plays. I think it's imporant that we have a real serious look at someone like that. In today's game, you need that mobility on your back end. You need guys who can move the puck because that's a big part of the game. You look at some of the top defensemen in the game today, they're great skaters and they know how to move the puck."

Some have questioned Brodie's size and have wondered if his 6'1, 180 lbs. stature would hinder his chances in the NHL. Sutter brushed off the concerns immediately.

"He's a very good competitor. The thing he lacks is size but there's some pretty good defensemen out there that aren't big guys and they're pretty good players."