It’s just hard to see the team lose. I don’t know if I would’ve made a difference at all, but it’s just not being a part of it. You work so hard to be able to play the games. I think the thing is we were in some games. It’s tough. Anytime you’re not playing it’s tough, especially when you’re not winning. Hopefully we can turn that around tonight. - Lee Stempniak
CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames are looking to ignite. Lee Stempniak could provide the spark.
After missing seven games with a broken foot, Stempniak will return to Calgary’s lineup on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks with the hope of halting Calgary’s three-game losing streak.
“It’s just hard to see the team lose,” Stempniak said. “I don’t know if I would’ve made a difference at all, but it’s just not being a part of it. You work so hard to be able to play the games. I think the thing is we were in some games. It’s tough. Anytime you’re not playing it’s tough, especially when you’re not winning.
“Hopefully we can turn that around tonight.”
Coach Bob Hartley has paired the 30-year-old with rookies Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan in an attempt to jump-start their offence. The pair went without a point on Calgary’s four-game road trip.
“They’re both really talented and show flashes out there,” Stempniak said. “At times I think they maybe beat themselves up a little bit too much when things don’t go their way. If we can just move on from shift-to-shift and be ready every time, things are going to happen.”
Hartley is hoping that’s what happens.
It's why he’s put the veteran with the two kids.
“He understands the game and he understands what those two youngsters go through,” Hartley said. “I’m always trying to give Sven and Monny a veteran presence around them. I’m just trying to put a little experience and at the same time, whether it’s Jiri (Hudler), whether it’s Stempy, there’s lot of skill on that line.”
Baertschi, a healthy scratch under Hartley in two of Calgary's past three games, is ready to welcome Stempniak back to his line.
After all, the trio did have success as a unit before Stempniak’s tough break.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how you can describe the chemistry, but its just understanding each other,” he said. “Lee, he’s a hard worker out there and Monny too. They work hard. It’s half of what you need to do out there on the ice. It creates a lot. It pays off.”
The other half is confidence.
“I always have a lot of fun playing with him,” Baertschi said. “It’s been a few games now where I played with him, before he got hurt. Me and Monny aren’t that experienced so having him, it helps you. It gives you confidence. He’s a huge help. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to create some good offence."
Hartley isn’t just hoping his veteran forward can spark the kids. He needs Stempniak to help boost an ailing power play too.
The Flames are currently riding an 0-for-30 slump with the man advantage, spread out over the past nine games.
With Stempniak back, Hartley’s hoping that skid gets snapped.
“This guy has real quick hands and can find those rebounds,” he said. “Is he the solution? It’s a unit of five. I never point the finger at one player. We do it as a team. We do good as a team. We do bad as a team. But obviously there’s no denying Stempy is going to help our power play.”
Having a chance to observe the power play from the press box, Stempniak has a few suggestions.
“It seemed as though we struggle on the entries at times and the puck gets shot down and everyone’s frustrated and you spend a minute out of the two minutes breaking the puck out,” he diagnosed.
“I think a lot of it just hinges on work ethic,” Stempniak said. “For us, we need to get the puck in the offensive zone, retrieve loose pucks and from there, we’ll get our shots, we’ll get our chances and as a result the goals with come.
“If we can establish possession and get a shot and work hard to retrieve it, you tire out the penalty killers and get those extra chances. A lot of times the first chance doesn’t go in but you tire guys out and then you can move it around and the seams open up and you can score.”
Stempniak hope two points at the expense of the Sharks.