Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Stars
Coach Bob Hartley likes what he sees out of his Calgary Flames of late.
Hartley’s Flames, winners of three of their past five overall and eight of the past 10 on home ice, hope to maintain their momentum when visiting American Airlines Center to tackle the Dallas Stars on Friday.
“We’re winning games the right way,” he said. “The guys are having fun. We’ve preached and we’ve demanded so much commitment and hard work from them since the start of the year that it’s nice to see those efforts are paying off.
“I compliment our guys because even around Christmas when he hit that patch where we couldn’t score a goal, they stuck with it. That was mentally very tough on us but I didn’t see anyone taking a left turn. Everyone stayed with us and now we’re playing better hockey. I think we’ve grown as a team and challenges like tonight, I think they’re great gauges for us.”
Calgary’s most recent win has given the coach plenty to be pleased about. The Flames handed the President’s Trophy chasing Anaheim Ducks a 7-2 drubbing on Scotiabank Saddledome ice on Wednesday.
That game, Hartley admitted, was won with the play in Calgary’s own end.
“The big key of the game was 10, 15 feet inside our blue line we pressured them so hard we got them to turn the puck over,” he said. “With some speed, we got some 2-on-1’s, some 3-on-2’s and we scored some goals on outnumbered situations. That’s good. The best part of those outnumbered situations, we didn’t try to be fancy. We executed real well and they were great goals.”
With back-to-back games against the Stars on Friday and Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday, the Flames have plenty of opportunity to play spoiler to a pair of teams firmly rooted in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Hartley, though, doesn’t see it as such.
“I don’t put any value in being a spoiler,” he said. “I want us to play well. Tonight, tomorrow night, those are vital games for them. I not only want us to match their intensity but to be better than them. We said coming back from the Olympic break that we wanted to be in a playoff mind-set, well it can’t get better than tonight. That’s what we want. Playing spoiler, I don’t really care about this. I want us to play well.”
MAC BACK BETWEEN PIPES
Hartley will call on Joey MacDonald between the pipes against the Stars, his first start in a Flames jersey since a 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 1st.
“It’s been a long time,” MacDonald said. “It’s exciting getting another opportunity. I wasn’t quite sure what is going to happen at the end of the year here, so to get an opportunity to get called back up again and I’ve got some stuff to prove.”
The Flames recalled MacDonald from the Abbotsford Heat on March 5th after the club shipped goaltender Reto Berra to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a second round pick. Since the recall, MacDonald has been limited to back-up duty while Joni Ortio has made five consecutive starts for the rebuilding Calgary club.
The 34-year-old veteran knows the 22-year-old Ortio is going to get the bulk of audition time for the Flames.
“I think it’s an understanding,” MacDonald said. “You look around the league and the league is getting younger and younger and younger. For a goaltender like myself, it’s been good to stay in as long as I have been. I think just to come in and have some good games here and prove that MacDonald’s still got it, he can still play in this league and be an eye opener for other teams and if not other teams, other leagues. It’s an opportunity.”
It’s also a chance to get Ortio some much-needed rest before facing the Phoenix Coyotes on the second half of back-to-backs Saturday night.
“We have two games in two nights. We also felt that Joni had a great run so to kind of give him two days off, prepare him for Phoenix,” Hartley said. “For Dallas and Phoenix, there are two huge games. Those guys are fighting for the last playoff spot. I think that it’s a great situation for us and at the same time, it allows us to play both goalies.”
GLENNIE FEELING GOOD
After missing 29 games with a high ankle sprain, Curtis Glencross returned to the Flames lineup in Wednesday’s 7-2 drubbing of the Anaheim Ducks. The ankle, he admitted, held up as expected.
“It felt alright,” Glencross said. “It was a little sore after the game but that’s expected, just getting into different situations and some more uncomfortable situations when you’re moving around and pivoting. It’s to be expected but it feels pretty good.”
Glencross skated for 20 shifts against the Ducks, recording 12:58 of ice time and four hits.
“You’ve got to start with the little things and go from there,” Glencross said. “I wanted to get out there and get a few bangs in and get the confidence going and go from there. Hopefully we’ll keep it rolling from there.”
“Situations like Rich Peverley, those are not injuries. They’re facts of life. They’ve been playing well for a while but obviously they care. Players care for each other. You spend so much time in the dressing room, on the road starting from training camp that there’s solid bonds being built around a team. When situations like this happen, it gets even stronger. I think they lost a great player and those are unfortunate situations but there’s something that I think they can get even stronger with this and I think they will.”
Tonight’s game between the Flames and Stars will be broadcast on Sportsnet-FLAMES and Sportsnet 960 The Fan at 6:30 p.m. MST.