No news could be good news for Brian McGrattan.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Calgary Flames forward hasn’t heard from the National Hockey League in regards to his hit on defenceman Andrew Alberts in the first period of Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
He likely doesn’t expect to, either.
“I’ve seen the hit,” McGrattan said. “It’s a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. Unfortunately he went down but my elbow wasn’t up, shoulder wasn’t up, didn’t target the head. That’s my take on it.
“I’m not a dirty player. I’ve never laid a dirty hit in my career. I don’t target heads. I don’t take cheap shots. I have respect for other players.”
Forechecking in the Canucks zone, McGrattan laid a big hit on Alberts. Alberts immediately dropped and laid motionless on the ice for several minutes while Canucks forward Tom Sestito, who took exception to the hit, dropped the gloves with McGrattan.
McGrattan was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing on the play.
“It was a rim around the boards and he was coming around reaching,” McGrattan said. “I came in and it’s a shoulder-to-shoulder hit and I kind of clipped him and came around. Unfortunately sometimes guys get hurt and you get kicked out of the game. It happens."
The holiday season hasn’t been particularly jolly for the Flames.
Since returning from the Christmas break, the Flames have been shut out in back-to-back games at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Flames coach Bob Hartley is hoping a steady dose of drills designed to spark his offence will help.
“Basically 95 percent of practice was on scoring goals, net plays, entering zones, creating some options offensively," Hartley said. "I think that confidence or scoring goals is something that can become very fragile. Suddenly you don’t think that you’ll score another goal ever. That’s not the case. I think that we just have to keep going being sharper around the net. We’re losing lots of loose pucks around the loose paint."
It's there, Hartley admitted, the Flames will find their touch again.
“I think that’s where the vast majority of goals are being scored in this league," he said. "Just come back to basics and believe in yourself. This team can score goals. We’ve shown it in the past. We just have to find a way to stick together and be better.”
David Jones, who has six goals this season but has gone 13 straight without finding the back of the net, knows the remedy for Calgary's scoring woes.
“At this level, we’ve just got to generate more shots,” Jones said. “I think shots and traffic at the net. We’ve got to find a way. It’s just a matter of simplifying things and getting bodies in front. Goalies are so good in this league you need to get traffic. I bet you 80 percent of the goals are scored within five, 10 feet of the net. We’ve just got to get to those areas.”
BERRA EFFORTS NOT GOING UNNOTICED
Calgary’s offensive struggles have spoiled two impressive starts from Reto Berra. Over his last 120 minutes of action, Berra has allowed just three goals on 57 shots, improving his goals against average to 2.91 and save percentage to .905 on the season.
But back-to-back blankings have put a damper on those performances.
“That’s tough on a goalie,” Hartley said. “You give one or two goals and you don’t win, it’s tough but I told him this morning and I have a rink in my office and I just circled his crease and said ‘That’s your office. As long as you give us a chance to win, there’s not much more that you can do’. We don’t expect him to carry the puck and do breakouts.
“With that performance, I think he deserves two wins. He gave us a chance and that’s part of the game. Some other games, he might not be playing very well and we’re going to score three or four goals for him and he’s going to end up with the win. Hopefully at the end of the year everything will balance out.”
Berra is expected to make his fourth straight start when the Flames host the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Eve.
MAINTENANCE FOR PAIR
Both Mikael Backlund and Jiri Hudler missed Monday’s skate with what Hartley called “maintenance”.
“They’ll be good tomorrow,” the coach declared.
Markus Granlund practiced for a second straight day with the club, but isn’t expected to make his NHL debut against the Flyers on Tuesday.
“We’re doing a good job defensively which is kind of the frustrating part. Earlier in the season the goals were coming and now we’re doing a good job in our own end only letting in one or two goals a night. It’s just unfortunate when we can’t get the job done at the other end.”
-Jones on scoring woes
The Flames host the visiting Flyers on New Year’s Eve (7 p.m. MT, SNET-W).