Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Flyers
News and notes from the morning skate prior to the Flames New Year's Eve match against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Calgary Flames swung a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes yesterday, brinigng in Kevin Westgarth in exchange for Greg Nemisz.
The move certainly suggests that president of hockey operations Brian Burke is true to his comments made several weeks ago when he said the Flames needed to get more physical and harder to play against. Westgarth fits Burke’s mould having accumulated 202 penalty minutes in 133 NHL contests since the 2008-09 campaign.
Westgarth was on his way to Calgary this morning but was hung up with a delayed flight. It’s not known when the Princeton grad will arrive but if he can make it to Scotiabank Saddledome by the early afternoon, it is expected he will enter the lineup. The 29-year-old would likely join Brian McGrattan and Joe Colborne on the group’s fourth unit.
“Right now the main thing is to try to get Kevin Westgarth in town,” coach Bob Hartley said. “His flight has been delayed. We think he’s going to show up early this afternoon so if he does, he’s going to be in the lineup. That’s going to get us to get maybe some new line combinations. At this point, it’s tough to give you a clear answer because of travel.”
The Flames current heavy-weight, Brian McGrattan says he welcomes Westgarth into the lineup and thinks it can only help the Flames cause.
“I welcome him like anybody else,” McGrattan said. “He’s a new teammate. He’s going to be a new friend. We’ll make him welcome here. I got his number last night and shot him a quick text and said ‘Welcome to Calgary’. Any new guy, any new teammate, you have to welcome him with open arms and he’ll be a great addition to the team and I’m looking forward to getting him here and having him.
“If you look at Toronto with Orr and McLaren, you don’t see too many things happen or them getting pushed around. It’s going to be hopefully a great 1-2 punch here.”
There’s been a focus on the Flames in recent days on the lack of offensive productivity. The team has been blanked in their last two outings and it’s something that’s a relatively new challenge for Hartley’s squad.
As a result, the coach has mixed up the lines in an effort to generate some goals.
The trio of Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak and TJ Galiardi have struggled the past two contests and has been broken up. Stajan will be flanked by Lance Bouma and David Jones while Stempniak will join Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan tonight against Philadelphia.
Hartley’s squad worked on getting pucks to the net and various drills to create scoring opportunities yesterday.
“Basically 95 percent of practice was on scoring goals, net plays, entering zones, creating some options offensively," Hartley said Sunday. "I think that confidence or scoring goals is something that can become very fragile. Suddenly you don’t think that you’ll score another goal ever. That’s not the case. I think that we just have to keep going being sharper around the net. We’re losing lots of loose pucks around the loose paint."
The defensive pairs will remain the same tonight; however, Hartley Dennis Wideman will get back into the lineup on Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning after missing 15 games with a broken hand.
Reto Berra will make his fourth straight appearance in goal for the Flames. Although he has only has a single victory in the past three matches, Berra has been strong only allowing five goals in that span with a save percentage of .931.
A PHYSICAL OPPONENT
Philadelphia is no stranger when it comes to physical play.
The team currently leads the entire National Hockey League in penalty minutes per game (16.8) and has racked up 658 PIM’s in the 2013-14 campaign. The next closest team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are 100 penalty minutes behind the the Flyers.
Their lineup boasts three skaters, Zac Rinaldo, Wayne Simmonds and Steve Downie, who all find themselves in the top-20 penalty minute leaders in the NHL.
It’s sure to be a physical affair tonight, especially if newly acquired forward, Kevin Westgarth, makes his Flamed debut.
“I think that’s a pretty safe assessment for sure. He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy and is a big, strong body that isn’t afraid of anyone. We’re happy to have him.”
– David Jones on the newest member of the Flames, Kevin Westgarth.
NEW YEAR’S EVE TRADITION
Calgary is 12-7-3-0-0 in games played on New Year’s Eve. They have won the last six consecutive games on NYE, the last loss was in 2003, with a 2-1 setback to Colorado. They last suited up on December 31st in 2010 when they prevailed over Colordao, 3-2.
The last time the Flames played Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve was in 1987, with the Flames coming out on top, 5-4. The Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals that season but would lose to the Edmonton Oilers.
Today's game will be aired on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The FAN at 7:00 PM MST.