CALGARY, AB -- It’s not just about playing out the string for the Calgary Flames.
Though mathematically eliminated from participation in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs prior to a 4-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, there’s more remaining for the Flames than just going through the motions with seven games remaining on the season.
Much more, suggested coach Bob Hartley.
“It’s not an easy situation but at the same time we are NHL players and what we are trying to get through to our young group is this is great learning situations,” said Hartley, whose troops will kick off a four-game road trip starting against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.
“In their mind we’re not a playoff team but there is still so much to learn, there is still so much room to grow. Look at the game we played last night against a team that many teams see probably as Stanley Cup finalist or a top-four team in the playoffs and we played them well. In our camp we out-chanced them. We made mistakes and they made us play for it but at the same time I liked that we completed, I liked the way we prepared and that’s what we want to see.
“We want to see this group keep moving forward. We want to use the next couple of games to prepare training camp, to prepare for the summer so that we leave this season – obviously very disappointed with our positioning in the standings, but at the same time proud of the way we finished.”
The standings show Calgary sitting 17 points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference with a possible 14 points available.
Calgary is three points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently hold sole possession of 30th in the League, with three teams -- the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and Columbus Blue Jackets — between them.
The standings, though, isn’t where Hartley’s focus will be with seven skates remaining.
With stops against Arizona, the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers in Calgary’s final Pacific Division swing, Hartley will be looking for something specific with the 2015-16 season winding down.
A tone set.
“We have a goal for the remaining games that we never want to get out-worked,” Hartley said. “We want to play smart, we want to play the game the right way because that’s where we need to learn. For Sam Bennett and [Sean Monahan] and everyone. As a team, it’s so important that we need to keep playing that kind of hockey and at the same time making sure that we keep out culture going.
“We will not push pause on our work ethic or our attitude because number one, we wouldn’t be honest towards ourselves and we wouldn’t be honest towards our fans and we will never do this. We need to maintain that level that allows us to get better and to have a better season next year.”
NOTES: Forward Josh Jooris participated in practice Sunday. Jooris has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury. Goaltender Joni Ortio will start in net. “I thought that we didn’t give much but at the same time he was solid,” Hartley said. “He did a good job for us.” Defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka did not skate Sunday.