It’s going to be so important how we maintain our play and even more. We have to bring our play up another notch. That way, it’s going to be through practice, it’s going to be through rest, it’s going to be through mental, physical preparation. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- Bob Hartley is hoping to maximize the returns on a light January schedule.
And the Calgary Flames coach has already started the process.
“We’re entering a segment right now with our next game against the (Detroit) Red Wings, we’re going to be right at the midway point of the season and we’re in the playoff picture,” Hartley said. “It’s going to be so important how we maintain our play and even more. We have to bring our play up another notch. That way, it’s going to be through practice, it’s going to be through rest, it’s going to be through mental, physical preparation.
“We’ll have plenty of time to plan and to make sure that we take care of our players that play the most minutes and at the same time try to keep everyone on their toes.”
It’s no easy task, though.
The Flames find themselves in the middle of one of two stretches in January with four days between games. Calgary will also see a stretch of five days between games with the NHL All-Star break coming later in the month.
With the scheduling, Joe Colborne and the Flames find themselves currently in a stretch where they play just three games in a span of 12 days, too.
“It’s quite the setup,” Colborne said. “We just have to make sure we try to take advantage of these rest periods as much as we can and just let your body heal. It’s nice having the one day but to give [Mark Giordano] and [TJ Brodie] and [Dennis Wideman] and some of those guys a chance to get two days off, sometimes your body needs that extra day. With the shape that they’re in they’ll bounce back no problem conditioning-wise. Their bodies just need to get away from the rink a little bit and stay out of the equipment.”
The process of juggling time on ice and away from the rink isn’t a new practice for Hartley.
He’s spent plenty of time managing the workload of his players.
“We already started to cut down on practice time,” Hartely said. “We had many practices at 20, 25, 30 minutes and the more the season will progress it’s going to be the same thing. It’s all about winning games. What about our situation? Where we’re at in the standings will dictate our final approach.”
BACKLUND EYEING RETURN
The stuttered January schedule has given injured forward Mikael Backlund plenty of time to ease back into the swing of things. Backlund, who underwent a procedure to correct an abdominal strain in November, can take some extra time to ensure he’s good to go.
“Obviously I’m excited to get going here,” Backlund said. “Me and coach had a good talk and whenever they feel I’m ready they’ll put me in. I’ve got to talk to the doctors too but if I say I feel good they don’t have any problem with me playing.
“We’ll see, day-by-day here as we get closer.”
Backlund has been limited to just 11 games this season before stepping away with the nagging injury. He rejoined teammates in practice last week and is inching closer to a return date.
Nothing has been set in stone, though.
“We’re not there yet,” Hartley said. “It’s a wait-and-see approach. We’re going to look at how he feels. We’ll have two good practice days. We’ll be in a situation to evaluate if he feels he’s ready or not. If we do, we’re going to go to him and the medical staff to see where they’re at also.”
Timing is key, Backlund admitted.
But there’s no extra damage to be done in coming back too soon, he declared.
“Injury-wise, if I go out and play a game too early I don’t think it will affect the injury,” Backlund said. “If I play Wednesday and I get sore or if I play Friday and I get sore, it’s something I have to deal with the rest of the season. We’ve tried everything now, all the medical things we can do. We’ve tried it. It’s more if I feel ready playing. I feel good out on the ice. It’s going to come more when I start playing too.
“Bob told me it’s playoff time now. It’s not early in the year. Guys start flying out there and battling for spots on the team and points in the standings. It wont be easy to come back but I’ll do my best when I feel ready and the coaches feel I’m ready.”
JOORIS NOT BLUE
Josh Jooris is another hoping to maximize Calgary’s four-day break. The 24-year-old has played in the Flames’ past two games after missing three with an upper-body injury.
“It’s getting better every day,” said Jooris, who sported a non-contact jersey in Sunday’s skate. “It’s nothing too serious. I can play. It’s just a matter of trying to get it back to 100 (percent). I’m close. I just want to make sure it’s full.
“Today was more taking advantage of the four days here, use the rest to our advantage and we got out there for a light skate to keep the legs under us. Rest is key at this point of the season.”