CALGARY, AB -- A "playoff game", as coach Bob Hartley called it in the morning, for Brett Kulak has come and gone, and the Calgary Flames hopeful will rest easy Saturday night with roster moves looming.
“We’ll see,” started Kulak, the 21-year-old defenceman hoping to grab one of two available spots on Calgary’s blue line to start the season Wednesday. “I think I might get a good sleep tonight. I feel pretty good.”
Kulak’s stat line -- no points, minus-1, no hits, no shots, one takeaway -- doesn’t tell the story of the Stony Plain, AB native on the night. Skating alongside Deryk Engelland and facing a Winnipeg Jets roster that will closely resemble what they ice when the campaign kicks off, Kulak felt as comfortable as he has in his brief audition.
“I felt good,” he said. “The pace, I thought, was the highest it’s been so far in the games I’ve played so far this pre-season. It was good. It was a good adjustment for me. It’s a good taste of what the regular season will be like.
“I feel comfortable. I feel like I can play at this level. We’ll see what happens.”
He’s got reason to be that confident.
Kulak received a glowing review from one of the men that will largely decide his fate.
“He looked like a playoff defenceman,” Hartley said. “He played very well. I’m very pleased with Kulak’s game. Nothing fancy. He skated well, made some great decisions, showed some poise for a young defenceman and I’m very pleased with his game.”
The potential rookie, with one NHL regular season game to his credit, is calm.
So too is David Jones, a veteran of 387 skates in the show.
“It’s exciting to see the young guys, some of the draft picks you hear about, and get to see what they can do,” Jones said. “Some of these young guys are really impressive. Now it’s business and I think most of our team’s here and everyone is chomping at the bit.
“I’ll just show up where they tell me to go and I’ll be ready to go. They’ve got some tough decisions to make, obviously. That’s great. Some guys have really stepped up and done a good job. We’ll see.”
Jones and Lance Bouma scored for the Flames in Calgary’s pre-season finale, a 3-2 loss against the Jets at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Jets struck twice in the second period to take a 2-0 lead.
Blake Wheeler redirected Toby Enstrom’s wrist shot from the point over the shoulder of goaltender Karri Ramo to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead at 3:18. Exactly five minutes later, Ben Chiarot caught Ramo off his angle, beating the Flames starter short side from the bottom of the faceoff circle to extend the lead to 2-0.
Bouma pulled Calgary to within one at 3:45 of the first period, winning the faceoff back to Mark Giordano before poking a rebound by the skate of Jets starter Ondrej Pavalec.
Micheal Ferland grazed the post with 3:35 remaining, and Drew Stafford found the back of an empty net with 1:06 left to play to give Winnipeg a 3-1 lead.
But Jones, with 16 seconds remaining in regulation, beat Pavelec to cut the lead back down to one for the eventual final.
“It’s nice to get the monkey off my back there,” Jones said. “I must’ve had five or six shots in Winnipeg and couldn’t find the net. It was a little too late, but sometimes it’s good to get things going that way.”
Pavalec kept the Flames at bay in the first, making 15 saves fueled primarily by Brandon Bollig.
Near the midway mark of the opening period, Bollig had two swats on the doorstep to beat the Jets goaltender after accepting a Matt Stajan centering pass, but he couldn’t wedge it over the goal line. With just over four minutes remaining, Bollig lifted a backhand over Pavalec -- and the crossbar -- after cutting hard to the net.
The two attempts were sandwiched by an opportunity from Michael Frolik, who intercepted an errant pass in the Winnipeg zone before firing a high shot that was snagged by his former Jets teammate.
Overall, Jones suggested there was some work remaining for his group.
“It’s still a little bit sloppy here and there,” he said. “There’s certainly some ups and downs during the game. The first half of the first period we didn’t generate anything and the second half we were flying. I thought we were turning the lines over and getting pucks to the net. The second two periods, we had too many turnovers. They’re a skilled team and they’ve got defence that when you get in your own end, they wheel around and it’s tough to follow.
“They’ve got some good players. Give them credit. If we limit turnovers and play in the offensive zone we’ll be fine.”