I meet lots of people from Quebec when I go to restaurants or stores and they tell me that we’re their favourite team unless we play Montreal. It’s a good trade. It’s okay. The most important thing is that they’re hockey fans. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- Bob Hartley understands if a few fans swap their Calgary Flames threads for a Montreal Canadiens sweater Tuesday. It happens, after all.
“That’s okay,” Hartley said Monday, one day in advance of the arrival of the Canadiens for their only visit to Scotiabank Saddledome this season. “I meet lots of people from Quebec when I go to restaurants or stores and they tell me that we’re their favourite team unless we play Montreal. It’s a good trade. It’s okay. The most important thing is that they’re hockey fans.
“That’s the main thing and after this it’s our job to make them become full Flames fans.”
Few teams have the drawing power across the league that Montreal boasts.
An original six team and with 24 Stanley Cup titles to their name, the Canadiens are amongst the most storied franchises in all of sports. Their heritage isn’t lost on Hartley.
And that’s why he understands, and expects, a wave of 'Bleu, Blanc et Rouge' amidst the ‘C of Red’.
“Original 6 teams, especially here in Canada, you talk about the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, they always bring their crowd and it’s normal,” Hartley said. “They basically started the NHL in Canada. They’re the two main teams and it’s normal. It’s normal that at one time many years ago everyone grew up either being a Maple Leafs fan or a Canadiens fan. They’re two great organizations.
“On my side, it’s always special. I have a chance to coach against my buddy Michel Therrien. It makes it fun.”
While Therrien and Hartley have split two the only two meetings between the two teams with both at the helm, the Flames have held a decided advantage of late.
Calgary is 7-2-1-0 over the past 10 games against the Canadiens and are 8-1-10 in the past 10 games set at Scotiabank Saddledome.
JONES READY FOR RETURN
The Flames will see a familiar face back in the lineup when hosting Montreal, too. David Jones, who has missed eight games with a lower body, is set to return to the lineup.
“It’ll be good,” Jones said. “You get a little tired of just practicing and bag skating every day. It’s nice to play some games. I’m excited to get back in and get back at it.
“It’s necessary but I think you play to play in the games. That’s where the fun is. I’ve been working hard the last few weeks and feel good. I’m excited to be back in the game.”
Jones has played just one game this season, going pointless while recording two shots in 16:22 of action in Calgary’s 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 9.
He’s not worried about any rust kicking around, though.
“You’re practicing with all the guys that are playing in the games,” he said. “I know practice is a little different but you can gauge where you’re at. If you’re really sucking wind out there during practice then you’re probably not ready. That’s not the case.”
For Hartley, the expectation is simple.
“Use your body, move your feet,” Hartley said. “That’s where the game is. You just have to watch every night games on TV, the speed of the game is unbelievable and if you don’t move, well, you’re not going to contribute. It’s the same rule for everyone. Obviously there might be a little rust on but hey, we have no excuses in this lineup.”
RAYMOND DOUBTFUL VS. HABS
A healthy Jones forces the Flames into a roster move. He’s expected to be activated off IR, meaning Calgary will need to shuffle a body to accommodate their 23-man roster.
“That’s a question that we will look at this afternoon,” Hartley said.
But that doesn’t mean the team is healthy. Paul Byron missed Monday’s practice due to illness, while Mikael Backlund took a maintenance day.
Mason Raymond, who also didn’t skate, is “day-to-day for now,” Hartley said, and isn’t expected against Montreal.
“I would really doubt it,” Hartley added. “Very doubtful for tomorrow.”
WIDEMAN FINDING STRIDE
Last season, Dennis Wideman managed just four goals over a 46-game campaign riddled with injury. He’s already eclipsed that total just 10 games into Calgary’s year.
All five of his goals have come since sitting as a healthy scratch against the Oilers, too.
“He’s been a lot different,” Hartley said. “You look at him in practice right now. I watch him prepare and everything and credit goes to him. He’s showing us a commitment and on the flipside it’s a great story because he’s getting rewarded. He’s playing very well for us. His minutes have gone up, his contribution to the team has been unbelievable and he’s having fun. It’s win-win.”
Wideman’s pace has been incredible. He’s scored in four straight contests and five of his last six.
The run has him leading the National Hockey League in goals amongst defencemen. Teammate TJ Brodie sits in a tie for third with three goals.
But Wideman’s contribution hasn’t just been at one end of the ice, Hartley noted.
“When I talk about contribution, I’m not only talking about his goal contribution, I’m talking about the way that he plays, the way that he retrieves pucks, the way that he plays defense in our zone. He’s alert. He’s out there. He’s giving us great minutes and he’s giving us a chance to win. If you don’t have defencemen in this game, you’re not going to win.”
While the play of Wideman has improved, the 31-year-old defenceman doesn’t feel he’s doing anything differently to find his sudden success.
“I don’t know if I’m doing anything different. You’d have to ask other people that are watching. Every time all of us go out there, we’re trying to score every shift. We want to score. I don’t know if I’m doing anything particularly different. I think I’m probably making a little bit better decisions than I did earlier in the year but as far as prep or when I’m practicing or anything like that, I’m doing everything the same.”
Calgary plays host to the Canadiens at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday at 7 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcast on SNET-Flames (TV) and SN960 (radio).