CALGARY, AB – The reinforcements are coming for Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley.
Both Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka skated Thursday and are eligible to return to the Flames lineup when they host the Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.
Hartley, whose team is 0-2-1 to start the season, was excited to see both back in Calgary and on the ice.
“I think that we’re going to have some new bodies in the lineup in the very near future,” he said.
Hudler is returning to the team after the passing of his father, Jiri Hudler Sr. last week. Cervenka was cleared to play after visiting a hematology specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. Both, alongside injured defenseman Anton Babchuk, were put through a rigorous practice by the Flames’ coaching staff.
Getting a first-hand look at the recruits by way of a ‘coaches versus players’ scrimmage after a tough skate, Hartley was happy with where both were.
“They look pretty good,” Hartley said. “We had Roman a couple of days but obviously no contact situation or even in situations where we were not putting him in a drill where there’s danger of him being cut or something like this because we didn’t really know what was going on. We can see he has skills and has a passion for the game and so has Jiri.”
With a better opportunity to see if both are up to game speed, Hartley will make a decision whether to slot both - or either - into the line-up Saturday. Lack of game time and the potential of jet-lag, especially in Hudler’s case, will determine if either find themselves in the first of four ‘Battle Of Alberta’ bouts this season.
“Tomorrow they’re going to practice both with us and after this I think I’ll have a better picture,” Hartley said. “Those guys have traveled – especially Jiri – so I want to make sure they’re comfortable with it and we’ll see tomorrow. We’ll sit later on today and make plans and tomorrow’s practice, after this we’re going to decide for the Oilers.”
Thursday’s session was the first time Hudler stepped skate on ice since leaving the team last Tuesday.
“It’s been tough, I’m happy I’m back,” he said. “I don’t know if it makes it easier but I know it’s a lot better for everyone. I really appreciated the Flames organization for letting me go home and spend some time there to take care of a lot of stuff. Like I said, I’m excited to be back and playing hockey.”
Speaking on his behalf, Hudler said Cervenka was excited to finally get his season - and North American career - started in Calgary after being told he’s good to go.
“He’s real happy to be coming back from Phoenix,” Hudler said. “The doctor told him that he’s cleared to play. He was a little worried that he would be spending time with Marty (Gelinas) for five more weeks but he’s excited.”
But perhaps not as excited as Hartley is to have two of Calgary’s biggest offseason acquisitions in his arsenal as the Flames look for their first victory of the season Saturday.