MONTREAL, QC -- 432 days.
That is how long it has been since goaltender Niklas Backstrom has played in an NHL game. His last appearance, coming as a member of the Minnesota Wild, came on Jan. 13, 2015 and since then, he has been biding his time and hoping for another shot in net.
Tonight, he will get that chance.
Backstrom gets the nod in net for this evening's battle with the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
"It’s a weird feeling," he admitted. "It’s been a really long time since my last game. It’s fun, it’s exciting to get back out there but you still just get back out there and work on your game."
How does one prepare after such a long layoff?
"Pretty much just trying to remember what I used to do before the games," he chuckled. "You try to prepare yourself as well as you can but that’s what I try to focus on."
Backstrom may have his work cut out for him tonight with the Flames possibly down to five defencemen heading into their match-up with the Canadiens. Deryk Engelland left the team today after his second child was born early this morning.
The Flames are trying to recall a defenceman from Stockton but given the Heat are in transit today, they may not be able to get a rearguard to Montreal in time.
"That’s the way it goes," Backstrom shrugged. "At the end of the day, it’s hockey. There are bigger things in the world and to be with his baby that is more important than hockey and everyone is happy for him."
The Flames defence corps is very cognizant of how important this game is to Backstrom and even if they are down a man, they will be doing everything in their power to get him his first win over a calendar year.
"We want to play a solid game in front of him," Mark Giordano stressed. "He’s been working really hard. He looks really good. As a team you always want to play your best game, but really tighten up defensively if we can tonight."
Since being acquired from the Minnesota Wild on the NHL Trade Deadline, Backstrom has impressed the organization with his attitude. He has been one of the hardest workers day-in and day-out and has proven how much he wants to be a part of the team.
"We are rewarding hard work and passion," Bob Hartley said after this morning's practice at the Bell Centre. "I’ve rarely seen a 38-year-old athlete coming into a team with the passion and the excitement he still wants to play.
"From the first practice he was in to the gym workouts he was in unbelievable worker. I sat with Brad, I sat with Jordan Sigalet and I said we need to find a way to give him some games so we’re starting him tonight in Montreal and Thursday night he is going to be starting in Minnesota where he was so good for 10 years. I think it’s a very simple gesture from our part but I’m sure that it means a lot to Niklas."