Flames Today: 04.03.13
FLAMES CLIMB MOUNTAIN
After a lengthy skate on Monday, the Calgary Flames closed practice with a drill dubbed ‘climbing the mountain’.
Sent off in flights, players skate to both bluelines, center ice and the far goal line, returning to the starting goal line at each interval.
The skate left more than a handful of players gasping for air and despite exhausted looks from his players, coach Bob Hartley downplayed the short-but-intense drill.
“We did one skating drill for 45 seconds,” he said. “We’re just making sure we keep a little conditioning drill going. One 45-second drill equals one shift in a hockey game. It’s far from being the end of the world.”
Players knew well in advance the dreaded drill was on the schedule, too.
“We get every drill in advance so you can look forward to those at the end though knowing it’s coming,” Jarome Iginla said with a wry smile.
It isn’t without its rules, either. If one member of the flight stops short of any line, they are met with an added treat.
“You go again,” Hartley said. “If one guy doesn’t touch the line, well, your entire line has to go. It’s all about team accountability.
“There’s a few rules but touching the lines is definitely the main rule.”
KIPPER CONTINUES TO SKATE
Nearing a return to the Flames lineup after suffering a strained knee in early February, goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff looked to be closing in on his top form on Monday.
Participating in drills simulating game action, the Flames’ franchise leader in wins could play as early as Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks.
But Hartley wasn’t ready to confirm Kiprusoff’s return.
“Where he’s at, the medical staff is very happy,” Hartley said. “His progression keeps going. Tomorrow morning he’s going to be back on the ice with us. It’s not a coach’s decision. We have a great medical staff.”
Though he isn’t part of the medical staff, Iginla was impressed with how Kiprusoff looked in drills.
“He alaways does,” he said. “He was going down and stuff which would be pretty tough with the MCL so hopefully he’s feeling good and will be back soon. We’ve gotten really good goaltending but you always look forward to getting Kipper back for sure.”
And when he returns, Iginla expects Kiprusoff to provide the Flames with a lift.
“He’s been so good for us for so long and he’s a big, big part of our team,” he said. “When you get any players back and especially the impact of him, it’s a boost for your club.”
BACKLUND NEARING RETURN
Though Kiprusoff’s return is on the horizon, a return to game action isn’t far for Mikael Backlund, either.
Skating again with the club on Monday, Backlund isn’t far from recovering from a sprained knee himself that has kept him out of game action almost a full month.
Still, Backlund said there’s no set target date for his return to the lineup.
“We’ll see,” he said. “It feels good. Every day is getting better. I’ve had two really good hard practices now. Hopefully soon, but I can’t tell you when now because I’m not sure.”
Backlund was injured on February 7th against the Columbus Blue Jackets but even the 23-year-old isn’t exactly sure how it occured.
“I don’t know what happened,” he admitted. “It’s hard to see afterwards on the replay, too. It doesn’t look bad. I guess something weird happened there.”