You can’t call a timeout in the NHL season when you have injuries. Last week we were commenting on how lucky we were and we were touching wood but I guess it must’ve been fake wood. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- The diagnosis isn’t in yet, but coach Bob Hartley isn’t about to start feeling sorry for his Calgary Flames.
The Flames lost Joe Colborne (upper body) in the second period and Matt Stajan (lower body) in the third period of Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens, but Hartley isn’t about to complain. He knows no one else will be sympathetic, either.
“We’re not different than the 29 other teams,” Hartley said following Wednesday’s skate. “We’re going to go through rashes of injuries and you have to be ready. You can’t call a timeout in the NHL season when you have injuries. Last week we were commenting on how lucky we were and we were touching wood but I guess it must’ve been fake wood.”
The injuries came on the same day that the Flames placed winger Mason Raymond on IR and updated his status to week-to-week. Mikael Backlund also missed Wednesday’s practice due to maintenance but is expected to play Friday against the Nashville Predators.
Despite the banged-up roster, Hartley feels he has options.
“We have a guy like (Josh) Jooris that can play centre,” Hartley said. “We have some options out there. We have 20 guys and I feel awful for [Stajan] and for [Colborne] and Mason Raymond a few days ago but every team goes through this.
“There’s no sense creating excuses or anything. It creates new roles, more ice time for some other guys. It’s up to us to keep running.”
While Hartley didn’t know the extent of the injuries to Colborne and Stajan, he does know one aspect of Friday’s roster against Nashville. Jonas Hiller will earn the start, the first time a Flames goaltender will play in back-to-back games this season.
“We have two goalies that are capable of winning games for us, so you might see a string where [Hiller] will go three, four games in a row and then the wind’s going to change and [Karri Ramo]’s going to go for a string of games," Hartley said. "We have no set pattern right now. Right now, you play well, you win, you stay. You play bad, you give the net to your partner.
“That’s okay. I think that they’re two great friends and we’re going to instill a healthy competition out there. The sad part of hockey: there’s only one net and you have two goalies.”
Hiller has been exceptional of late. His three-game winning streak was halted in Montreal’s win, but the 32-year-old goaltender stopped 18-of-19 shots in the losing effort. Over the past four starts, Hiller has allowed just three goals on 120 shots.
His .948 save percentage on the season is second only to Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick’s .950 amongst those that have made more than four appearances.
“It might go the other way pretty quick,” Hiller said. “I’ve got to take the games I get and don’t look too far ahead.”
Hiller got the news of back-to-back starts following his shootout loss to the Canadiens.
“It gives me plenty of time to prepare or to worry about it,” he said. “It’s always good to know and kind of nice to hear that he’s happy with the way I’m playing. It helps me focus in on playing well and worrying about what coach is saying.
“At the same time, I want to keep playing the way I am or even get better.”
JOHNNY BE GOOD
Getting better is the way Johnny Gaudreau is trending. The 21-year-old rookie earned high praise from his coach for his efforts against Montreal.
“That was Johnny’s best game,” Hartley said. “Best game with the puck; Johnny without the puck. I felt that he was our best forward.”
Gaudreau set up Calgary’s only goal, a second period marker off the stick of captain Mark Giordano in the slot. He also created several other scoring opportunities at even strength, on the power play and while skating 4-on-4 in overtime.
“I think it was one of those games where I was just making little plays,” Gaudreau said. “I try to do the little things right. I try to be smart in the defensive zone and try to create chances offensively. I was playing with a bunch of different players last night and everyone was playing really well. It’s easy to play when you’re playing with players who are playing well as well.”
It’s just a part of his progression, one Hartley credits to the work the former Boston College standout has put in from the onset of the season.
“He’s a great student, especially the way that he improved in our zone, in our system,” Hartley said. “He’s a smart young man and he wants to do it and he works hard. You look at him in practice. He’s always working; he’s always applying himself. That’s why that he’s playing well and progressing in our organization.”
Gaudreau doesn’t want to see that progression slow.
“It’s been a learning experience for me,” he said. “It’s been a different experience and a little different for me but it was a good transition. I’m excited for the next month and to see if I can keep improving, keep playing well with talented players.”