CALGARY, AB -- The crease isn’t getting any less crowded.
Through six pre-season skates, and with two more remaining, little has been resolved in the case that is the goaltending situation of the Calgary Flames.
“That was kind of expected,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “We’ve said it from Day 1 at camp, we’re going to have a battle in net, we’re going to have a battle on the blueline -- obviously with [Brodie]’s injury, that kind of went on the backburner -- and up front. It just keeps going on. Every day that goes by our decisions are not getting easier. Players understand what’s going on and they’re making a push.
“I think the investment that we’ve made in the past years in culture and work ethic, it’s really paying off right now. We see lots of pride out there. They want to play; they want to compete for the Calgary Flames.”
Compete they have.
Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo split a 29-save shutout performance and Jiri Hudler scored twice as the Flames beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 in pre-season action at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday.
“At the end, everybody wants to help the team to win,” Hiller said. “I think me and [Ramo] did a good job tonight. I always said all I can do is take care of what I do and play well, but I guess the other guys are doing the same. We’ll see where it’s going to. I’m not worrying too much. I’m trying just to focus on what I’m able to do for myself. Hopefully it’s good enough.”
The performance against the Avalanche bumped both netminders’ numbers.
Hiller has two wins in three appearances and has stopped 55 of 57 shots in 119 minutes of work, a .964 save percentage. Ramo has one win in 132 minutes spread over three appearances and has stopped 74 of 78 shots, a .949 save percentage.
Joni Ortio, Calgary’s third candidate in net, is 1-1-0 in 90 minutes of action and has surrendered just one goal on 48 shots for a .967 save percentage. He’s slated to start Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.
The battle isn’t getting to Ramo.
“I just try to focus on making the next save,” he said. “If you start thinking about what’s going to happen next week, what’s going to happen tomorrow, today is going to go away. This is where I can affect things is right now. I don’t have to worry about what happens tomorrow.
“It is kind of the same. It’s the same thing. There’s nothing new. It’s always been the same way here. Everywhere I’ve been it’s the same way. Right now, the only thing I can do is start preparing for tomorrow and do things right and see what happens tomorrow and move on. We’ll see.”
The Flames wasted little time giving Hiller, the starter, support.
Twenty-four seconds into the game, Jiri Hudler took a return pass from Johnny Gaudreau below the goal line and snapped a shot by the blocker of Colorado starter Calvin Pickard to put Calgary up 1-0. It served as Calgary’s first of eight shots in the period, and the lone goal.
It didn’t take much longer for the Flames to build on that lead in the second.
Exactly one minute into the middle period Hudler netted his second of the night, redirecting Michael Frolik’s fanned shot behind Pickard to give Calgary a 2-0 lead.
Hiller held that lead until exiting, as planned, midway through the second period. He stopped all 15 shots faced.
“I feel comfortable where I’m at right now,” Hiller said. “I’m definitely happy the way things are going so far. I think that’s always been one of my strengths in my game, to kind of be calm, to kind of be on top of the game and not letting me worry about too much and just focus on the next shot. It’s working pretty well. I’m hoping I’m able to keep it up.”
Ramo, in relief, was forced to make just two saves -- including one off his shoulder on a shorthanded odd-man rush off the stick of Brandon Gormley -- as the Flames kept Colorado scoreless through 40 minutes.
It was the Avalanche who pushed early in the third, tossing six shots on Ramo in the opening four minutes of the period. The Flames reliever stopped another six in the remaining 15 minutes of the final frame to preserve the 2-0 win and the joint shutout with Hiller.
Fifteen saves for Hiller; fourteen for Ramo.
The battle continues.
“These situations come and go in hockey all the time,” Ramo said. “I think it’s just a normal thing that there is a lot of players battling for the same spots. You just have to try to do the same thing as you would be playing every game. You just focus on your own thing and don’t worry about anything else.”