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Big Ern, Peters and teammates weigh in on important game by Lucic

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

If any man fully comprehends what it's like to have the C of Red staunchly in his corner, that man just might be Big Ern.

"You saw tonight what his physical presence can bring," said the immensely-popular Brian McGrattan, off to the side, watching pal Milan Lucic being interviewed on Rogers Sportsnet post-game just outside the double-doors leading into the Flames' inner sanctum.

"How that presence is felt. By both teams.

"On that goal, I mean, the D-man wanted no part of that puck.

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Despite efforts to keep a lid on the 'secret,' David Rittich unveils new Heritage Classic pads

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

David Rittich was nimbly deflecting away any and all pad probing with the élan of pushing aside a 2-on-1 wide-angle poison dart or a heat-seeking one-timer from the high slot.

"Top secret," he shushed conspiratorially, resisting the temptation to put an index finger to pursed lips in silent warning.

"You have to wait, for that game, that day."

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Peters says d-man Stone will play on this road trip and veteran couldn't be happier to return to the lineup

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

As a word, blasé is blissfully, mercifully absent from Michael Stone's personal dictionary. 

As a mindset, it's nowhere to be found in his attitude towards the game, all that it means and has brought him.

"It's a privilege to play in this league,"  the 29-year-old, 439-game, mind-the-store defenceman is saying Wednesday morning. "How many kids grow up wanting to play in the NHL and don't get that opportunity? 

"So to be there and have to sit and watch for - what was it? - 80 percent of the season … that wasn't fun for me.

"So regular-season hockey would be very welcomed by me."

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Another great game for Dube, who's working hard to be the best he can

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The opportunity to hob-nob on the job with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

In this neck of the woods, that carries as much shine as fetching your Fender Stratocaster guitar and joining a jam session alongside Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

"They play at a high pace," said Dillon Dube, after his two-point evening Wednesday helped the Flames shade a prospect-laden group of San Jose Sharks 6-4 in pre-season skirmishing at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "It's fun to play with them. A lot of transition. I was just pinching myself the whole time.

"It's a little nerve-wracking."

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Matthew Phillips' grandfather Don predicted his grandson would be drafted by the Flames

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The founder, president-in-perpetuity and curator of the Matthew Phillips Fan Club, happily enough, resides in the magically-named Happy Adventure, Newfoundland.

"It's in a little cove, about an hour and a half from Gander,'' reports Phillips. "There's just their house, a road and a little bay on the ocean.

"Pretty cool.

"My mom's whole family is from Newfoundland.

"And my grandpa, well, he's my biggest fan in the world. He'd run his mouth pretty good about me while I was growing up but I guess that's pretty typical of grandparents.

"He kept telling everyone one day I'd play for the Calgary Flames. All the the time. Over and over.

"And I'm betting they were all looking at him like: 'Yeah, sure.

"'Whatever you say, Don …'"

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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.

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Kylington had a great summer travelling Spain, but now he's back to concentrating on his journey to being a full-time NHLer

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The passport is Swedish. 

The emotional ties, apparently, at least part Spanish.

"Oh, I love Spain,'' Oliver Kylington is confessing, pre-camp fitness-and-testing over for him relatively early Thursday at WinSport.

"Ibiza in particular. Spent two weeks there this summer. Had a great time.

"The whole island is absolutely … beautiful. The water's unbelievable. If you're single and with your friends, the atmosphere is pretty fantastic.

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Lucic amped after first day on the ice as a Flame: 'The opportunity (to win a Stanley Cup) here, with this team, these guys - is what continues to drive me.'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /
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Valimaki admits injury has been tough on him mentally, but young Flames standout is staying positive: "I'm not even 21 years old yet. There's tons of years left to play."

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The initial jolt of emotion, of disbelief mixed with recognition, triggered an almost paralyzing fear.

"Shock. I guess that would be what I felt right away," Juuso Valimaki is recalling of the moment he felt the stab of pain in his right knee.

"The first reaction was crying and screaming at the same time. The second was just crying.

"You can't believe it. Not again.

"I knew something had happened. I wasn't sure how bad it was.

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Dustin Wolf stands tall between the pipes in victory over Oil prospects

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The periodic wolf-howl sound effect over the Scotiabank Saddledome sound system provided an apropos touch.

"Obviously as a goalie you want a few more shots," acknowledged Dustin Wolf, encircled by media post-game. "But at the same time whatever it takes to get a win is what you want to do.

"I thought going into warm-ups I was feeling pretty comfortable. I felt I was on fire in warm-ups. I just came out and I thought I played pretty well.

"Unfortunate bounce, but you can't stop 'em all when you can't see 'em."

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