Just going to the game and seeing the atmosphere there and watching the game, it really made me want to play so badly. Sitting out, it sucks. I’m happy I’m 100 percent. I can’t wait to play. - Sam Bennett
CALGARY, AB -- Though he didn’t get into a scrimmage at main camp on Monday, the smile couldn’t be brighter on the face of Calgary Flames prospect Sam Bennett.
Participating in a full practice for the first time since tweaking his groin in the finale of the Young Stars Classic in Penticton a week ago, Bennett has progressed to the point that he’s able to join teammates.
“It felt pretty good,” Bennett said following the skate. “I felt pretty good. I think I might’ve been gripping my stick a little too tight, the first time out with the main squad. It was good to be out there for the first time.
“It’s back at 100 percent. Tomorrow I’ll be practicing with the guys again. I’m back in the lineup.”
Provided no setback, it’ll be full speed ahead for Bennett coach Bob Hartley confirmed.
“Today he had one practice on the other side,” he said. “Unless my medical staff advises me that things have changed, he is going to be full practice with us tomorrow.”
Bennett was held out of the third period of Calgary’s 6-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the Flames’ final game in Penticton. At the time, the move was precautionary.
And after missing skates in each of the first three days with the main group, Bennett finally got the chance to join teammates for the first time.
Now, he’s anxiously awaiting another first.
“I can’t wait (to play),” Bennett said. “Just going to the game and seeing the atmosphere there and watching the game, it really made me want to play so badly. Sitting out, it sucks. I’m happy I’m 100 percent. I can’t wait to play.
“I don’t know what the plan is. I’ll probably find out on game day but I’m itching to play.”
The news wasn’t all good for the Flames, though. Mikael Backlund, listed as day-to-day with an abdominal strain, didn’t skate at all Monday.
In fact, Backlund hasn’t taken a regular shift in camp yet.
“I don’t have any news to tell you, but I’m worried,” Hartley said.
“I’m always worried.
“He’s still not on the ice. I’d like to see him on the ice. That’s for sure.”
FIGHTING THROUGH FATIGUE
While Bennett made his debut, teammates have endured three full days of skates interrupted only by Sunday’s split-squad action with the Edmonton Oilers.
“Today was the first day you’re starting to feel a little sluggish and tired,” forward Curtis Glencross said. “We’ll battle through it. Preseason and camp, it is what it is. It’s a grind. We always look forward to the end of the camp when it’s over.”
There are ways to recharge the batteries to power through, the 31-year-old veteran admitted.
“Get some time away from the rink and go hang out with the family,” Glencross said. “It gets your mind off the rink. When you come back to the rink in the morning, it’s time to go back to work. It is what it is. We’ve got to take care of our bodies and get the maintenance stuff done on ourselves to try to stay as healthy as we can.”
Hartley knows the importance of managing fatigue.
That’s why he and his coaching staff have devised a plan to help ease the workload when it comes to distributing preseason games.
“It’s all about common sense,” Hartley said. “We sit as a group. We decide on the lineups and it’s all about ‘this guy played last night, we want him to play five games through the nine exhibition games’. We have kind of a set goal of games for each player that we want to play but again, injuries or other circumstances could change.”
Hartley’s roster has already been altered.
After Monday’s skate, the Flames announced that they have assigned Jason Fram (Spokane/WHL), Brandon Magee (Victoria/WHL), Mason McDonald (Charlottetown/QMJHL) and Hunter Smith (Oshawa/OHL) to their respective junior teams.
Fifty-eight players remain, but that could change, too.
“We’re going to make some moves at tomorrow’s time,” Hartley said. “Hopefully we will have two groups practicing and we will still have the injured group. We should go down to two groups for tomorrow.”
The Flames return to Scotiabank Saddledome for a trio of skates getting underway at 9 a.m. MST.