With our schedule we’re trying to manage energy and make sure that we’re ready where it counts. It’s the game. Everyone was in the gym. We just have a 25-minute skate with the ones we wanted on the ice. Just a normal business day. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- With 10 games and 21 days remaining in the regular season, Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley is in the business of managing bodies.
As such, more than a handful of players were absent from an optional practice at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday.
“With our schedule we’re trying to manage energy and make sure that we’re ready where it counts,” Hartley said. “It’s the game. Everyone was in the gym. We just have a 25-minute skate with the ones we wanted on the ice. Just a normal business day.
“We’re trying to save energy. You see practices right now. They’re not long. It’s all about managing energy but at the same time we need competitors at this time of the year. It’s a matter of making sure you’re on the job, that every single battle, every single second that you’re on the ice, something can happen.”
Calgary is in the middle of a stint that sees them play six games in 11 nights and, although none of the skates are back-to-back, a rest is critical for those logging big minutes in the push to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Entering action Sunday, the idle Flames are two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division. The Kings have one game in hand. Calgary also trails the Vancouver Canucks by two points for second in the Pacific. The Canucks also have a game at hand.
It’s been a grind, both physically and mentally.
“Mainly physical,” Hartley said. “Mental right now, I think it’s the easiest time of the year. You know that every game is basically a must-win. Yes, at a certain time it can be taxing but at the same time we’re pros and we want to be in those situations. For me it’s very motivating.”
Though Calgary’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler have combined to score four of the last six goals for the Flames, there’s no concern about a balanced attack coming from Hartley.
“Not long ago we scored how many goals in two, three games?” he said. “Obviously the last two games have been tough but those are situations that you have to deal with. I think our scoring has been good.”
Hudler and Monahan had the goals for Calgary in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In a 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Monahan and Gaudreau added markers. TJ Brodie and Dennis Wideman also scored, with assists coming to Gaudreau and Hudler.
“The last two games…but its two games,” Hartley started. “Does it mean we need to re-tool everything? I don’t think so. Those guys brought us here. We have full confidence in them that they’ll keep getting the job done. Right now it’s the situation and the time of the season where you need to fight for each inch of ice out there. Sometimes it’s not there. You need to create it.”
ON THE MEND
With the optional on Sunday, defencemen Dennis Wideman, TJ Brodie and Kris Russell didn’t skate, nor did Calgary’s top-line trio. Paul Byron also didn’t skate, but for a different reason altogether.
“Just gave him a break,” Hartley said of Byron, who has missed 15 games with a lower-body injury. “There’s still pain so the medical staff felt that it was better today that he didn’t go on the ice.”
Both Josh Jooris and Drew Shore did skate, but Hartley couldn’t confirm either would play Monday against the Avalanche.
He does, however, expect David Schlemko to suit up versus Colorado. Schlemko tumbled hard into the boards in the first period of Calgary’s loss to Columbus on Saturday. Schlemko did stay in the game but was absent from the optional skate.
“He’s a warrior,” Hartley said. “I give him full marks. Lots of guys after that collision with the boards right there, many guys would’ve bailed out. I give him full marks. He’s shown us that he’s a real warrior.”
QUICK HITS: Hartley said Karri Ramo would make his third consecutive start Monday against the Colorado Avalanche…Douglas Murray remains with the team on a try-out basis…