CALGARY, AB -- There will be no rest for the weary when action gets underway for the Calgary Flames this season.
To little surprise, the Flames will start the condensed, action-packed season at a furious pace, playing three games in four nights and four in their first seven. Calgary opens the season with a back-to-back set at the Scotiabank Saddledome, hosting the San Jose Sharks next Sunday in the club’s home opener before ushering in the Anaheim Ducks Monday. The Flames then hit the skies for Vancouver Wednesday before the first ‘Battle Of Alberta’ bout Saturday.
“Hearing that, the thing that speaks to you right away is that it’d be nice to get a good start at home,” Michael Cammalleri said. “The schedule is going to be busy right through and it’ll be important for us to understand how to manage our game, manage our energy.”
The opening week of the season has the ability to dictate the pace put forth by the Flames and rookie forward Sven Baertschi – who hopes to be in a position to contribute to a strong start – is more than aware of what it means to get out of the gate quickly.
“There’s big games there, especially at the start when there aren’t that many games (in the season),” Baertschi said. “I know that from Switzerland. Every single game matters there. You can’t afford losing streaks. It’s going to be a huge season.”
There is little reprise once Calgary navigates its way through the first week of the season and with a compressed schedule, Blair Jones acknowledged the difficulty of the task at hand. With 48 games crammed into a 97-day schedule starting next Sunday with the Sharks in town, Jones is quick to calculate the math.
The result? Not a lot of free time for the Flames.
“It’s going to be grueling, for sure,” he said. “I think it works out to a game every second day sort of thing, so taking care of the body on days off and just making sure you’re eating well and resting with that many games in that short of time.”
That is, if there’s time for rest.
Calgary will play on consecutive nights nine times this season, including five sets on the road, further complicating an already disjointed schedule.
Surviving back-to-backs on the road is a difficult task, but one that is crucial if the Flames hope to conquer to put their season on the proper path.
“The first thing you look at is back-to-back games with travel,” Cammalleri said. “Those are always the most difficult because it’s just hard to rest. You play a game then you fly. Your biological clock is off. It’s hard to get to sleep and then you have to play again within 24 hours. Those right away jump out at you as players.”
With little time between sets is set to become a way of life this season, Jones’ off-day routine will become increasingly valuable, according to Cammalleri.
“The off-ice stuff will become even more significant in a season like this,” Cammalleri said. “The better you can sleep, the better you can eat and keep yourself hydrated throughout this stretch will help you a lot on the ice.
“You more adapt to your preparation off ice with trying to eat as clean as you can and get your rest as best you can and aside from that, it’s more of a mental thing than even physical. If you can try to relax yourself away from the rink and then get the intensity up when you’re at the rink, that’s probably the most efficient way to do it.”
It’s a similar challenge faced by 29 other teams this season.
“It’s the same for everyone,” Jones said. “We’re just excited to get things started here.”
And kick off an intense, compressed NHL season.