Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Canucks

Gaudreau, Arnold set for debut in finale

Sunday, 13.04.2014 / 3:26 PM / News
By Aaron Vickers  - CalgaryFlames.com (@aavickers)
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Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Canucks
Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold are ready to make their NHL debuts on Sunday

VANCOUVER, BC -- Admittedly, Bill Arnold had a tough time getting a few winks in one night in advance of his National Hockey League debut against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.

But it wasn’t nerves that kept the 21-year-old up all night. Instead, it was friend and longtime teammate Johnny Gaudreau.

“I was rooming with him,” Arnold said. “He snores. I’m used to it though.”

Gaudreau, 20, wasn’t buying it.

“I don’t think so but I can’t really tell when I’m sleeping,” he said. “I’ve been told I never snore so I think he might be telling a little lie there.

“I actually got a lot of sleep last night from the time difference. It was a little bit nicer sleep in a hotel bed than a dorm bed that’s pretty small. It was nice.”

The pair of Boston College standouts has had a whirlwind week, to say the least.

It started in preparing for the Frozen Four. It’ll end in preparing for their first NHL games. Mixed in between was a Hobey Baker Memorial Award for Gaudreau and the signing of their first pro contracts for he and Arnold.

It's a  journey that has taken them from Philadelphia to Calgary to Vancouver along the way.

“I give them credit because they seem to be under control,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “You look at their week … early last week they were preparing for the NCAA Championships, the Final Four, coaches meetings and I’m sure they had team meetings preparing them for two big games and then Johnny gets beat and Bill gets beat … then negotiations and decisions and get on a plane -- It’s seems [like] they were stuck in a blender for a full week.

“They had a good practice yesterday, we talked with them this morning and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible. I just want them to have fun … it’s their first [NHL] game, lets not go crazy with all the hype and everything. Let them be kids for another game and after this, we’ll see.”

The kids will certainly be the center of attention against the Canucks.

But both Arnold and Gaudreau were quick to share the event.

“It’s a dream come true but the thing for me is it’s not all about me,” Arnold said. “It’s something I share with all my coaches, all my teammates, my whole family. I didn’t get here on my own and I owe a lot of this to all them. It’s exciting for me, but it’s also exciting to them. That’s really important to me.”

Added Gaudreau: “A lot of family, friends are watching and to especially have Billy here and my family members here and Billy’s family. A lot of people helped me get here today and I’m pretty excited I get to do it with Billy and my family up here.

“I think they’re pretty excited. I think my mom’s a little nervous I’m playing with such older guys and not playing college anymore. I’m excited to see her reaction after the game.

“I’m definitely nervous. I was talking to a lot of players throughout this past day here and they said to just take it like another game and enjoy it while it lasts because it’s your first game and you don’t get that back.”

VETS LEAD FRESH FACES

When Gaudreau and Arnold step skate on Rogers Arena ice, they’ll mark the 13th and 14th Flames this season to play in their first career NHL game. Sixteen rookies have also suited up for at least one game this year, too.

The mix of Calgary’s veteran core and emergence of some youthful leadership have heavily eased the transitions of so many introductions.

“They do such a good job helping us prepare the guys and helping that transition,” Hartley said. “Take for example tonight -- Johnny Gaudreau (and) Bill Arnold are playing their first games in the NHL -- this is a big moment. It can be nerve racking, you never know.

“You put this young players in that situation and you never know how they’ll react and how they’ll prepare and it’s part of our job, as a coaching staff, to help them but we don’t spend the entire day with them, they spend the entire day with their teammates and that’s where our captain, Mark Giordano, and all of the teammates -- it would be easy for me to say the veterans -- but I see some of the young players, the new players coming in [taking care of the rookies].

“It’s a tribute to them, it [shows what] good people they are, good human beings. Good people make good teams, not necessarily good players. The guys have great values and that’s why it helped lots of young players come in and do great with us.”

END OF THE ROAD

Sunday’s affair with the Canucks marks Game 82 on the schedule for the Flames. Sitting 13th in the Western Conference and 26th overall in the League, the season will end for Calgary in Vancouver.

It’s a bittersweet feeling, Hartley admitted.

“Today, it’s a fun game, the Canucks will be honouring Pat Quinn but at the same time, it’s a sad day for us because tomorrow the guys will be in their lockers cleaning up, medicals, exit meetings and everything,” he said. “It’s a season that went by way too quick. We have some great things going … we’ll keep working with these guys and hopefully next year at this same time we’re planning to play more games.”

The Flames made plenty of strides in their first year in rebuild mode.

Despite failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Flames have exceeded the expectations of most thanks to a blue-collar, lunch-bucket approach.

“[It’s] something that makes me very proud of this group,” Hartley said. “They always show up to work, whether it’s [a] conditioning workout, practice, morning skate [or] games. We make a big deal [about] how hard this team works … I think we’re just doing our job, we’re paid to work hard. You need to be a special person sometimes to do extra. We feel, as a coaching staff, very fortunate to have this group, it’s a fun bunch.”

But, as Hartley pointed out, a season can’t be deemed a success without a postseason appearance.

And in that, Hartley declared the Flames have to make sure they keep moving forward.

“Frustrating is not part of our vocabulary right now because we’ve built some very positive aspects of our game,” he said. “To make the playoffs, people don’t realize how tough it is, it’s a process. We started this process in the right way, but there’s no guarantees. Our challenge [is] to make sure that we don’t go backwards on what we’ve built over the year and to make sure over the summer and next training camp we can crank it up a big notch again and we can have a good start.”

QUOTABLE

“That’s why there’s minor hockey. There’s great kids playing minor hockey across the world, they share a dream. You look at the Crosby’s and all those great players in the NHL and they hope that one day they make it. We had plenty of them, that had the chance to make their first steps in the NHL this year with us and it’s great. This is a fun game and it’s a cycle of life that keeps moving. I love working with young players.”

-Hartley

HEAD TO HEAD

Calgary’s All-Time Record vs. VAN: 123-86-33-9-3
All-time record CGY at VAN: 54-49-18-5-2
Last 10 games VAN vs. CGY: 2-5-1-2
Last 10 games CGY at VAN: 2-5-1-2

BROADCAST INFO

Tonight’s game between the Canucks and Flames will be broadcast on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan (7 p.m MST).