| February 24, 2010 |
|Getting back on the ice |
The Calgary Flames hit the ice for the first time over a week looking relaxed and refreshed. A very upbeat crew skated for approximately an hour on Wednesday, getting themselves back into the swing of things.
"Everything is so intense. It's nice to get a mental break, nice to give the body the chance to heal up too," blueliner Cory Sarich said. "I had a few bumps and bruises that are gone now. There's a few days of practice here and we'll be back to the mental grind."
Head coach Brent Sutter was happy with how his squad looked at their first practice back but said the team needed work hard over the next week in preparation for their next game as every other team is prepping for the stretch drive as well.
"Every team’s doing the same thing. We had no more advantage than anybody else," he told the small group of media at the skate. "That’s how we handled ourselves in making sure our practices are timely practices as far as getting things down. We’ve got to be careful here these first few days. We’re going to have an opportunity as we get along here to really start getting into our systems and stuff. I think these first few days, it’s just getting their legs back under them and getting their hands going and work on some skills stuff."
While the mental and physical break was nice, the players were eager to get themselves on the ice before the hectic March schedule kicks in.
"I think it's a good thing," Sarich said of getting back to practicing as a group. "In this sport, you take a couple days off and you don't always feel great coming back let alone nine or ten days without being on the ice. You can do as much as you want off the ice but it almost feels a little bit like training camp although you're not quite that far out of it."
Whenever there is an extended break, players attention to physical fitness and nuitrition can be questioned but Sarich was adamant the team kept themselves in check and didn't let fitness fall to the wayside during their time off.
"I've been here for three years now and you see the results that come out of training camp and you see the work that guys put in throughout the year so I don't think that our physical fitness has ever been a question."
Sutter echoed that thought, noting that he didn't feel any need to issue a "warning" over the break.
"They’re professionals. They understood our situation leaving and where we’re at and what we need to do when we get back here. They all looked good today."
New face in net
With Miikka Kiprusoff off representing Finland at the Olympics, the Flames brought over University of Calgary goaltender Jeff Weber. The 25 year-old Ottawa native will practice with the club until Kiprusoff arrives back in Calgary.
"He's in Vancouver until at least Saturday," Weber said with a smile. "I wish him the very best out there and I'm happy to be his replacement. They're big shoes to fill, that's for sure."
Weber got the call last week from goaltending coach Jamie McLennan, asking him if he'd be willing to come out to practice while Kiprusoff was away. He jumped at the opportunity right away.
"I've developed a good relationship with these guys over the past couple of years, working for them and playing with the Dinos, so we've stayed close. I was ecstatic when Jamie thought of me first."
It isn't the first time Weber has filled in for practice.
"It happened a couple times last year and then I got to go to training camp with them two years ago. It's easy because it's nice and close, I live ten minutes away."
The Communications and Culture major is in his last year with the Dinos and hopes to move into the pro ranks after he's done at the University of Calgary.
"I'm in my last year at U of C. I'd love to go play pro when my career is done here, at U of C, and if the opportunity arises, that'd be great. If not, this is a great way to go out of a hockey career, saying that I was playing in the NHL."
Just like the rest of the world, the Flames have been wrapped up in Olympic fever since the Games began.
"I certainly watched a lot of Olympics like everybody else," said Sutter as yells could be heard from the locker room after a particular play in the USA-Switzerland quarterfinal game. "I watched some of the hockey obviously, but I watched a lot of the other stuff too."
American Craig Conroy has been ambivalent to who to cheer for when it comes to Canada and the USA but said that when it comes down to it, he has to stay with his home country.
"Living in Canada, it’s weird, even my girls, my little one thinks she’s Canadian," he laughed. "She’s the only one in the house that roots for Canada. Every time I’m like “You know you’re American too.” All the other sporting events, figure skating and all that stuff, we’ve been rooting for USA right all along. It’s tough with the hockey, because you do have friends and stuff, but everything else is easy."
As for the round-robin mens hockey game featuring Canada and the US, Conroy had mixed feelings on it.
"It’s always mixed emotions when Canada-U.S. play. I don’t really cheer either way. It was in the round-robin so it really didn’t (matter). You want to be first, but it’s not going to kill me if U.S. loses or Canada wins, but if it was coming down to gold I’d probably still have to go for the U.S. I hate saying that."
The one game Conroy and his family are really looking forward to is the womens hockey gold medal game on Thursday.
"That’ll be fun. They beat us in Salt Lake. We’d like to get them hopefully back in that one. It’s going to be hard though, they’re playing good. The Canadians are just on a tear right now."