The pressure comes from the last game. It doesn’t come from the coaching staff or the outside. It comes right from the inside. If you’re playing the last game, you have a chance to start the season here - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- And then there was one.
There’s just a solo opportunity remaining for hopefuls looking to make an impression on coach Bob Hartley as the Calgary Flames travel east to take on the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
And with 30 players remaining in camp by way of three goaltenders, nine defencemen and 18 forwards after a trim Friday, it’s the job of those players pushing to make sure their mark is left.
“Tomorrow is another big game,” Hartley said. “It’s the final game. It’s our ninth game. It’s been a long training camp. The battle is far from being over. There could be some spots being won; there could be some spots being lost in tomorrow night’s game. It’s a big game for us.
“The pressure comes from the last game. It doesn’t come from the coaching staff or the outside. It comes right from the inside. If you’re playing the last game, you have a chance to start the season here."
The pushes have been strong.
In his first training camp, 21-year-old Johnny Gaudreau has paced the Flames in points with a goal and four assists in five games -- most of which the highlight variety. Josh Jooris, too, has been strong with two goals -- both coming Thursday against the Jets -- and an assist while demonstrating reliable play in both ends.
Sam Bennett, Calgary’s top pick (No. 4) in the 2014 NHL Draft has recorded a pair of assists in three outings, too.
Jooris welcomes the pressure of a one-off in Winnipeg.
“Pressure is kind of good for me. I don’t mind it,” he said. “I play well under it. I try not to think about it too much but the reality is there’s one game left here and one game left to prove myself. I’m just going to try to do that [Saturday]
“Coming in here, I wanted to obviously show my stuff and it’s gone pretty good so far. I can’t really complain. I’ve kind of put myself on the map. It’s an exciting time right now. We’ve got one game left so I’m looking forward to it [Saturday] night.”
Not easy decisions for those perched at the top.
“We still have lots of bodies,” Hartley said. “Don’t think that whether you’re a veteran or a rookie…remember the slogan, ‘Always earned, never given’. That’s the culture that we’re building over here and it goes for everyone.”
BACK TO PRACTICE
It’ll be even tougher to pare down Tuesday's mandated roster limit of 23. With forwards David Jones, Mason Raymond and Mikael Backlund resuming with the main group Friday, the forward situation becomes that much more crowded.
“Look at practice today. I thought I had a buffalo herd,” Hartley said. “There was so many guys and they were skating towards me and you have a hard time seeing the boards. I told Marty (Gelinas), ‘gosh, those buffaloes will run us over’. Just to show that right now it’s pretty amazing in a year or two how much we were able to re-stock the depth chart.
"Talk about depth chart, it’s very close to immediate depth chart. Sometimes you say, ‘oh that kid in three or four years’. Look at all the kids still remaining. The battle is on.”
Backlund, Jones and Raymond could all potentially play Saturday in Winnipeg.
“They look good today, (but) obviously it’s only one day,” Hartley said. “We’re going to look tomorrow morning. There’s possibilities that one, two maybe the three of them will be in the lineup tomorrow in Winnipeg. We will see how they are [Saturday] and we’ll make decisions probably around morning skate.”
Backlund wouldn’t rule himself out against the Jets and re-enforced his was ready to go.
“If the season were starting tomorrow, I would play for sure,” he said.
The Flames made the picture a little clearer on Friday, assigning Michael Ferland and Patrick Sieloff to the Adirondack Flames of the AHL and Morgan Klimchuk to the Regina Pats of the WHL.
The decision on Ferland and Sieloff was especially difficult, Hartley admitted.
“Two unbelievable kids,” he said. “They pushed hard. At the end, those guys didn’t play lots of hockey last year and they’re kids. I’m proud of [Ferland]. He came a long way. He showed up in great shape, best shape of his life and made a strong push. He’s going to be back. He’s a big part of our plan. We believe in him. Same thing as Sieloff. They need to play. They need to play a lot.
“We felt looking at our lineup here, giving them fourth line minutes or to scratch them wouldn’t be very smart as an organization. It’s a tough day, but we think we did the right thing for them and for the organization.”
The Flames travel to Winnipeg to take on the Jets in the ninth and final game of the pre-season.