There is nothing better than playing a game. We tried to reproduce as many game situations as we could. Stajan has been working very hard and he’ll be in tomorrow. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- Matt’s back.
A few days after getting medical clearance, Calgary Flames centre Matt Stajan has gotten the go ahead from coach Bob Hartley and will be back in the lineup Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.
“He has been cleared for a few days and we wanted to work on his conditioning, making sure that we don’t lose a step,” Hartley said following an optional skate Friday. “Those veterans coming back right now, there’s a certain pressure on those guys. At the same time, it’s our job to put them in the best position. Obviously, you miss like four, five, six weeks, there’s going to be some rust in your game.
“As much as we can skate them and do all sorts of drills, there is nothing better than playing a game. We tried to reproduce as many game situations as we could. Stajan has been working very hard and he’ll be in tomorrow.”
Stajan missed 15 consecutive games with a knee injury sustained in an Oct. 28 loss against the Montreal Canadiens. The 30-year-old left the game midway through the third after a knee-on-knee collision with defenseman Jarred Tinordi.
But now, he’s ready to go.
“I just want to get back to game action, get up to speed, keep it simple,” Stajan said. “I haven’t played in a while. You want to get your feet wet. There’s a lot of hockey to be played left this season. I want to pick up right where the team is and make sure I’m just joining in to where we are because everybody’s been playing so great.”
Yes, Stajan is aware of the run the Flames find themselves on.
Winners of four straight and eight of their last 10, the veteran knows he needs to step in and find a way to help continue that stretch right away.
“It’s just spiraled and snowballed in a good way,” said Stajan, who has a goal and an assist in 11 games this season. “Our D have been playing great, goaltending, we’re getting scoring through our lineup. The guys who have come up have been great. That’s great for everybody. Good teams in this league that get to the playoffs rely on a lot of people and its not just the guys that are playing on any given night.
“There are going to be injuries and guys get called up. You’ve got to do a job. We’ve got a lot of depth in this organization. That pushes all of us to push each other and be as good as we can be. That’s why we’ve been successful thus far.
“You’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to be doing your job out there. I think that’s the competition from within where we push each other.”
SEGMENTED INTO SEVENS
Stajan’s first game back will come in the finale of Calgary’s fourth seven-game segment of the season.
A division devised by Hartley to keep the focus of the group, the segments have been a successful tool thus far. The Flames opened the first with a 4-3 record. The second segment yielded more points after a 4-1-2 run. After falling back to 4-3 in the third segment, Hartley’s troops have already secured five wins through six games of the fourth segment.
“We keep going,” Hartley said. “Our vision of this is we have a good segment, were going to use the positive or were going to use the confidence that we built in that segment but we start back at zero. If ever we have a bad segment, it goes right to the garbage. Short-term goals, we don’t keep anything negative over here. We learn from it and we move on.
“We don’t say we won our last three segments, it’s one round by one, and we want to get to the big dance.”
Admittedly, Johnny Gaudreau hasn’t seen a similar system.
The rookie, who spent three-years at Boston College, has found that it’s helped keep the attention of the group and motivate them in the short-term.
“It’s a little bit different than I’ve ever looked at a season but it seems to be working for us right now,” Gaudreau said. “I think it just gives us a little bit more time to focus on the next five, six, seven games rather than looking at the long season. We’ve been doing a pretty good job right now with it.
“It’s nice we can have four out of four of them. Hopefully we can keep building on it. It’s pretty unique, the seven-game series’ Coach Hartley focuses on.”
A big part of Calgary’s segmented success this season has come with sophomore Sean Monahan. The second-year pro has sits fifth in Flames scoring with 19 points, but his 10 goals trail only Jiri Hudler’s 11.
He has a team-high two shootout goals and another two game-winning goals. His most recent came in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche.
“He’s so poised,” Hartley said. “You have to look at the person rather than the player. The person, he’s a calm young man, he wants to do well but it’s all o the inside. The way that he manages his own life and the way that he manages what he does, that’s impressive. That’s very impressive. He’s on top of things, you don’t have to repeat twice to him. When he does something wrong, you show him a video clip and right away it sinks in and he gets on the ice and applies himself.
“He’s a very simple individual. He’s low maintenance, easy to coach, and more importantly, he’s fun to coach.”