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Teammates and Flames alumni shocked and saddened by loss

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Reflecting on his former teammate on a tremendously sad, sobering day, Gord Sherven's thoughts kept returning to Christmastime 1987.

Back to when Zarley Zalapski was reaching the apex of his not inconsiderable powers, the hockey world seemingly at his feet.

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Forward's game rounding into form as coach had predicted

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Amidst the celebratory tumult over his dramatic go-ahead strike, an ecstatic Sam Bennett naturally had the headlights turned to high-beam.

That was a Lotto 649 jackpot win grin. A flash of enamel bright enough, Pepsodent-gleaming enough, to light up Times Square on any given New Year's Eve.

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Staying close with his teammates has Kris Versteeg's spirits up through his physical therapy

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The gear hung in the customary spot, as if awaiting its owner for the 8 p.m. Hockey Night in Canada start only a few hours away, represented an as-quickly-as-possible hope.

The crutches resting to Kris Versteeg's left the immediate reality.

"Yeah, nice of them,'' said Versteeg, of the No. 10 jersey and accompanying equipment all in place. "I didn't expect that.

"I'm going to need to be here, in the room, around the guys, as much as possible.

"For the sake of my own sanity."

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Flames prospect Glenn Gawdin is in the midst of a standout season in the WHL

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

He's been on site before as an integral member of the Swift Current Broncos, of course. Sporadically, over the past five winters.

Still, strolling down Scotiabank Saddledome's event level hallway Friday morning, through the sliding Flaming C double-doors, past the photo of the iconic '89 Stanley Cup team on the wall and nearing the entryway to the inner sanctum of the big team in his town, held a different kind of feel for Glenn Gawdin, somehow.

More welcoming, perhaps.

As if he might be checking out future digs.

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Looking to tidy up areas in their game, the Flames held an up-tempo practice before flying to Toronto

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

No medicine exists, either over-the-counter or prescription, for what currently ails 'em.

No travelling salesman is apt to miraculously appear at the dressing room door either, peddling a cure-all magic elixir for gout, rheumatism, indigestion and spotty defensive-zone coverage.

They must heal themselves.

"That's the beauty of this game,'' said Flames' goaltender Mike Smith, tucking gear into his equipment bag for a later-than-anticipated Monday morning departure. "There's another game tomorrow.

"We haven't played up to our potential and we need to get it going. (Adversity) can only make you stronger. It depends on how you look at things.

"You can feel sorry for yourself and keep bumping along or you can grab onto it, learn from, push forward and improve because of it.

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Giordano's incredible NHL journey hits 700 games

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Over his six-decades in and around the game at its highest level, partnering, playing against, plotting against, tutoring or studying the position's elite, Al MacNeil has seen it all.

The former Flames coach has seen them all.

From Harvey to Orr, Pilotte to Potvin, Robinson to MacInnis, Chelios to Coffey to Lidstrom to Bourque.

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Flames will now head out on the road looking to turn things around

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Struggling in a straight jacket of their own making.

The prevailing mood late Monday night was best reflected in Matthew Tkachuk's clipped, straight-to-the-point replies to post-game questions.

What, the influential sophomore was asked, went wrong?

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Comeback doesn't mean much to Gulutzan - coach more worried about play that put them in a hole in the first place

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Flat-lined at the start. Full bore at the end.

In the final analysis, though, the chasm proved too deep, the deficit too large, the near-impossible task they themselves had created just a shade too daunting.

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Johnny, Mony and Ferly tore up November and made a solid case as one of the best - if not the best - lines in hockey

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Audacious in imagination. Ruthless in execution. Truculent in spirit.

Johnny, Monny, Ferly.

All three bring their own unique party-favours to the clambake.

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The winger is listed as month-to-month with a hip injury

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The whispers, unfortunately, turned out to be true.

The news is not good.

Right winger Kris Versteeg will fly to New York and undergo hip surgery on Monday.

"He'd had some history with the hip,'' explained Calgary Flames' GM Brad Treliving on Friday afternoon. "He tweaked it. He zigged when he should've zagged.

"It's not something like he blocks a shot and you have a bruise there, or somebody hit him and that caused the problem.

"He turned and got jammed up and put stress on the joint. What we're dealing with is a hip labrum issue."

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