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Head coach Bill Peters said split-squad games important as team builds for season

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Shaking out the cobwebs. Scraping off the rust. 

"In games like this," reasoned Michael Frolic in the aftermath of the Flames' seasonal curtain-raiser at the Scotiabank Saddledome, "you're just trying to find your rhythm.

"First games are always tough that way.

"I felt good out there. Playing with Backs … we know each other so well. I haven't seen him all summer but we're so comfortable with each other. And Benny, he gets in the forecheck, turns over pucks.

"We were pretty much in control there and let it get away.

"The first two periods were good.

"The third wasn't.

"You learn from this and just keep building."

On split-squad Monday, the Alberta half of the Flames-Vancouver Canucks doubleheader, the homeside started strong but fell 3-2 in overtime.  

In establishing a 2-0, 40-minute advantage, the Flames - using most of their core group in the home fixture of the twin-bill - were thoroughly bossing matters against a more experimental group shipped east by the Canucks.

Johnny Gaudreau got things rolling early, 7:30 into the third period catching Canucks' wire-to-wire goalie choice Richard Bachman in mid-snooze, whipping a shot from off the blue and yellow Pizza 73 board signage, top shelf, far-side.

Calgary's utter dominance paid off again, finally, at 15:02 of the second, Frolik whipping a puck freed up by Sam Bennett, slotting into the short side from relatively close range.

The shot clock reflected the territorial disparity: 30-4, locals.

"We came out good, got a real feel for it. But we didn't keep our foot on the gas,"sighed Bennett, impressing once again as the third spoke beside the long-standing doubles act of Frolik and pivot Mikael Backlund.

"Definitely not my first time playing with those two. I love the way they play. We had a lot of good O-zone shifts and controlling the puck pretty good."

On the night, they were Calgary's most consistently dangerous trio.


Video: "We see the chemistry is still there"


"I thought that line definitely had some good shifts," agreed boss Bill Peters. "Benny's a guy who can do up and down the lineup and play either wing and complement lots of different types of players.

"They had some good moments tonight, for sure."

Out of virtually nowhere, the Canucks struck for two third-period goals against newcomer Cam Talbot - taking over from starter David Rittich 28 minutes in - before Jake Virtanen's second of the game 1:32 into OT completed the improbable comeback.

"I just overplayed him a little bit,'' said Talbot. "Then he pulled up and made a good shot.

"But at some point you've got to make a save, too.

"There are things you've got to clean up and be ready for the season.

"It is (tough), especially when you're coming in and you don't get any kind of warm-up and stuff like that. Any time you're coming in and not getting a lot of work and you're coming in cold it makes it a little tougher.

"But that's when you've gotta stay focused and make those saves."


Video: "The third period kind of got away from me"


Elsewhere: PTO dynamo Zac Rinaldo certainly got himself noticed in the heat-seeking-missile department, registering six hits, a game high. Another big body in search of employment, Devante Smith-Pelly, clocked in with five, partnering Glenn Gawdin and Rinaldo.

Milan Lucic, meanwhile, marked his debut in Flames' livery, operating on a line alongside Derek Ryan and the franchise's 2019 first-round draft pick, Jakob Pelletier, taking his initial bow in from of the C of Red.

"I thought we started on time,'' critiqued Peters. "Did a good job there. We turned it over a little in the third and it cost us.

"We have things to take out of it. Some of the young guys were good. (Robert) Hamilton acquitted himself well on the back end. Good to see (Jakob) Pelletier for the first time, for me to work with him a little bit.

"He's got lots of confidence. Next time we'll try him on the left side. He's played both. He's a versatile guy in that regard.

"I thought Pelts was good. It was good to see him play; good for him to get the first one out of the way."
Good for them all, actually.

"A great night tonight," summed up Peters, result aside. "Obviously the game going on in Victoria, too, so we get 40 guys in action.

"And we need it, right?

"When you don't scrimmage in camp and we feel the right thing to do is just to practice, lay a foundation, you could see some of the timing issues, some of the double-clutch with the puck.

"That's the stuff we'll iron as we go here through the pre-season."

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