BRODIE’S PLAY NETS BIG PRAISE
Though he didn’t record a point in a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday, TJ Brodie’s body of work in his 26:18 of action was the best Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley has seen him play.
“Not only for this season, the last 48 games also,” Hartley clarified after Sunday’s practice. “Defensively, he made some unbelievable decisions. He had jump in his play, he was creative with the puck, he put pucks at the net.
“TJ, what he has to learn is that he’s going to get better. He doesn’t know how good he is. I think that he has to create higher expectations for himself and at the same time to believe that he can be a real good defenceman in this league. He can be a top defenceman in this league and it’s our job to get this out of him because he’s a young defenceman.”
Brodie was especially good at keeping the high-powered line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson off the score sheet, a feat accomplished in just one other game this season.
He was flawless on the penalty kill, too, where the Flames -- ranked 29th heading into Saturday’s game -- kept the Capitals power play -- 2nd in the league -- at bay in four man-advantage situations.
“I don’t know how many passes that he broke with a good stick, with great positioning and that’s not an easy power play to defend, trust me,” Hartley said. “You have Backstrom on one side, you have (Mike) Green at the top and you have Ovechkin that is shooting missiles at the far side. You need to be on your toes, you need to be in the shooting lane, your stick has to be in the passing lane. There’s a ton of things you need to think in a fraction of a second and I felt last night he was really sharp.”
MCGRATTAN EARNS FIRST PIMS
For the first time this season, Brian McGrattan has more penalty minutes than points. The rugged forward was whistled for roughing up Mikhail Grabovski in the opening period, his first minor of the year.
But McGrattan, who has one assist in nine games, is more concerned with playing a responsible game than racking up PIM’s.
“You don’t really want to be a liability and go take dumb penalties,” he said. “I don’t base my play on that. I think it shows more that I don’t have many (penalty minutes).
“Penalty minutes don’t mean a lot unless they’re fights. The other ones put your team at a disadvantage but if there is a good penalty to take, it is being real physical. I took one last night and finally got on the board.”
McGrattan has 62 career fighting majors in the NHL including 17 as a member of the Flames, but the 6-foot-4, 235-pound pugilist hasn’t found any willing contestants yet this season.
“We haven’t really played anybody either,” he said. “If you look at the schedule I could have 20 by the end of Christmas. You’re going to go through spells of games where you don’t play guys but it doesn’t really mean anything.
“You have to go out and play physical and be intimidating and play a real physical game on the fourth line. That’s more than fighting, most of the time.”
BACKLUND FACES CHALLENGE
Playing a season-low 9:54 against the Capitals, Mikael Backlund is faced with a new challenge.
Playing behind the likes of Joe Colborne and Sean Monahan down the middle, it’s now Backlund’s turn to push back, according to Hartley.
“For sure because there’s always someone who wants your ice time,” he said. “This is the law of the jungle in the NHL. Everyone wants your job. The day that you get a job, you can’t get satisfied because there’s someone pushing you right in your back. It’s just that cycle.”
Backlund’s ice time on Saturday was his lowest since a sprained knee forced him out of action midway through a 4-3 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 7, 2013. In that game, Backlund played just 7:58 before leaving the game.
ON THE MEND
Though both Mike Cammalleri and Christopher Breen were absent from practice on Sunday, neither are concerns for Hartley.
“Breen has a minor injury and Cammy it’s just bumps and bruises,” the coach confirmed.
Hartley didn’t have an update for Lee Stempniak, who missed Saturday’s game against the Capitals.