We’re in a good spot. Obviously we have a challenge to even be better in the second half. That’s the only way we’re going to be a playoff team. That’s the challenge ahead of us. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- A big board in the coach’s office of the Calgary Flames depicts the NHL standings.
If everything goes according to Bob Hartley’s plan, he doesn’t need to pay much attention to it.
“In the past seasons, we’ve been standing at this time of the year and we’re hoping for help from others,” Hartley said following Tuesday’s practice. “This is not the situation right now. We win games and we’re going to take care of ourselves. It’s a good sign.
“We’re in a good spot. Obviously we have a challenge to even be better in the second half. That’s the only way we’re going to be a playoff team. That’s the challenge ahead of us.”
Through the first 40 games, the Flames sit fifth in the Pacific Division with 45 points, just two points behind the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. Calgary trails only the Winnipeg Jets for the final of two wild card spots and by just two points.
With half a season to go, Hartley likes where his team sits.
“We’re one game away from the halfway point of the season and we are controlling our own destiny,” he said. “If someone from the NHL would’ve come to us at training camp and say we’re going to bring you after 40 games and we’re going to give you this record and this position in the standings I would’ve taken it. I would’ve taken it.”
So too would the players.
“Obviously we can’t control if other teams are going out there and winning their games or losing their games,” forward Joe Colborne said. “We can only make sure we’re ready to play when we do get back into game time.”
PLENTY OF PRACTICE
Game action returns Wednesday for Colborne and the Flames after a four-day hiatus from NHL action. The time off has taken some getting used to.
“Honestly, it was so weird last night,” Colborne said. “It just felt like it was a game night. I expected to be doing the same stuff the night before a game and coming in here for a pre-game skate and talking with some of the other guys it was just a weird feeling.
“Some of us watched the World Junior game and then you head home, getting prepared for the game and it’s something we haven’t had to deal with so far this year.”
But the break between games isn’t completely unwelcomed.
It’s given Calgary a unique chance to reset, refresh and refocus for the second half of the season.
“First, you’ve got to try to mentally just take a break from the schedule but practice is important,” captain Mark Giordano said. “You don’t get a lot of opportunity to work on stuff in your game in a season when you’re playing every other night. I think the most important thing is to feel refreshed mentally and hopefully we come out hungry tomorrow night.”
It also gives the likes of Giordano, TJ Brodie and Sean Monahan, all logging big minutes in the first half, a chance to unwind.
“I think the biggest thing and maybe not this next game coming up but down the stretch but guys like [Giordano] who are playing hard minutes, [Brodie], it’ll pay off for those guys and give them some more jump,” Colborne said. “They need that break more than any of the guys on the team. Even [Monahan] has been playing lots of minutes lately. We still have a long ways to go. To let those guys take advantage of this rest is going to pay off for us.
“I’ve never seen a month like this. It’s going to be interesting to see. We’re going to have to make sure we try to come out and aren’t a little flat-footed from not playing a game in a few days.”
There will be little time to knock the rust off with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg visiting Wednesday.
“They’re a scary team to play because they have a lot of skill,” Giordano said. “They’re willing to try to make those plays. Both in their zone and offensively they do, they do make a lot of those plays.
“Having guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg around for as long as they have doesn’t hurt. I think everyone feeds off of them and it seems like their young guys coming in try to make their game into what Datsyuk and Zetterberg are doing. They try to copy them and play a similar style.”
Hartley called the Red Wings “the most consistent organization over the last 15 years” thanks in large part to their pair of leaders.
“When your top two players are your most complete players and they play the right way, you can rest assured that your culture is going to be a good one,” Hartley said. “Datsyuk and Zetterberg could probably go 10 games without a goal and I would still count on the Red Wings to win many games. They play the right way. They don’t cheat the game.
“You’re a young player and you come up in this organization, you have two great role models. Us on this side right now, our captain is our best role model. He plays the game the right way. Those are positives in an organization. That’s how you build solid young players. It’s not only about the teaching, about the coaching, it’s about who do you have around. It’s about good people.”
NOTES: Calgary ran the same line combinations Tuesday, with Brian McGrattan, David Jones and Markus Granlund skating as an extra line...Ladislav Smid, in just his second practice since becoming a father to twins, took a puck in the neck/jaw area and left practice momentarily before returning…Hartley said Mikael Backlund “looks pretty good” and will make a decision on him tomorrow.