You go one day at a time and see what happens. There’s only that much you can worry about. That’s the only thing you can control, how you handle yourself. You focus on that and see what happens tomorrow. You want to play. Everyone wants to play. That’s part of this game. Being a part of a team, it’s fun to be here with the guys so you’re enjoying that every day. - Niklas Backstrom
CALGARY, AB -- Fourteen months, exactly, between games.
But who’s counting?
Certainly not goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who is patiently awaiting his debut with the Calgary Flames following a trade two weeks ago that brought the 38-year-old to only his second-ever NHL organization.
Backstrom last played Jan. 13, 2015, as a member of the Minnesota Wild.
And, after serving as Minnesota’s third option all season -- without netting a second of game-action -- Backstrom hasn’t shown a minute of impatience as he looks to step once again on the ice.
“You go one day at a time and see what happens,” Backstrom said. “There’s only that much you can worry about. That’s the only thing you can control, how you handle yourself. You focus on that and see what happens tomorrow. You want to play. Everyone wants to play. That’s part of this game. Being a part of a team, it’s fun to be here with the guys so you’re enjoying that every day.”
Backstrom, who made his Wild debut in 2006 and is the team's career leader with 194 victories and 28 shutouts, hasn’t seen a second of NHL regular season action since being pulled in a 7-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins 425 days ago.
There isn’t an exact plan in place to end that drought just yet.
“This morning we looked at it and we didn’t decide anything,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “We started to talk about it. We’re just going to look and come up with a schedule where we’re going to decide who will get some starts against which teams. We’ll try to do a schedule which is good for the three of them.
“We don’t know. We didn’t commit to anything yet. We told them that we would come to a schedule soon with them.”
Backstrom isn’t frustrated.
He isn’t fretting.
Nor is he flabbergasted.
The Asikkala, Finland native is simply eager.
“I don’t think in Minnesota … I don’t know if the right word is to say I got used to it, but it started to be the same thing every day,” Backstrom said. “For sure to see something, you’ve got new coaches, new drills, new players to practice and be with. It helps a lot mentally and gives a little bit more of a spark to push you even harder. It’s been a good thing for me.”
Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet has noticed.
“His character and work ethic are unbelievable,” said Sigalet, three years younger than Backstrom. “It’s nice to see a guy that’s 38 come in here, and you know why he’s played so long in his career now.
“For a guy who is 38, he comes up to me and says, ‘I want to get better every day. I know I’m 38, but I want to play for a long time still.’ It’s refreshing to hear a guy older than me come up and tell me these things.
“You can see the passion he has in the game every day. He’s the first one on the ice and the last one off. You almost have to kick him off the ice. He’s not stuck in his ways at all. He’s always open to new ideas and asking me every day what he sees, what he can work on, what he can change. It’s fun to collaborate with him and work with a guy like that.”
The opportunity hasn’t come.
And with 24-year-old Joni Ortio carrying the bulk of the load of late, the decision to start Backstrom hasn’t been made, either.
But when it does, he's is already set on enjoying it.
“You want to do that and have fun and go out there, for sure,” Backstrom said. “It’s a little different than sitting out seven, eight months. You want to go out there and prove to yourself that all the work you put in was worth it. At the end of the day, it’s fun to play. You want to have that feeling to go out and play and battle and compete.”