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Flames strength and conditioning coach has plan in place to help players excel in China - and when they return home to start the season

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The 9,802 kilometres of flight distance isn't what has Ryan van Asten's attention.

It's the 9,802 back.

"Obviously it's imperative you start the regular season strong,'' says the Flames' strength and conditioning coach. "We've seen that time and time again.

"We'll have two weeks after we get back to get ourselves ready and I think that's enough.

"But you can make return jet-lag problems worse by not structuring those two weeks properly. It's going to be a busy time for everyone.

"So just prioritizing when guys play is important - that's a coaching decision, of course, but I would definitely give some advice on that.

"Certain guys are just resilient. Mark Giordano, for instance. He can pretty much do anything and he never gets fatigued.

"Other guys are on the opposite side of the spectrum and you have to really be careful.

"We have a bunch of pre-season games as soon as we get back and we know some players are more resilient than others. So you have to know when to push and when to dial back."

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'This is his time. To show us what he's all about.'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Even for someone as innately chill as Jon Gillies, the mugginess of Indiana, an annual summer hangout spot, can be a bit oppressive.

It's already 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with 40% humidity on this Tuesday morning.

"I'm not,'' confesses Gillies, "a big heat guy."

 He has, though, been a big Heat guy, playing a major role in Stockton with the organization's top minor affiliate.

In this, his full third season pro, the aim is to be a big Flames guy.

When training camp opens in September, Gillies and AHL goaltending sidekick David Rittich are widely expected to duel for the Flames' back-up puck-blocking role in support of main man Mike Smith.

A two-year contract - at $750,000 per - so fresh the ink has barely dried on the page now finalized, the 24-year-old Gillies can continue to focus on honing his craft. 

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Flames expect Lindholm's game to round out during new six-year pact

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Those back-to-front 185 feet, the toughest slog of any ascent to authentic, any-way-you-want-to-play/all-around stardom, are already in the mists behind him.

Have already been scaled.

Only 15 more to go to plant his flag at the summit.

And Elias Lindholm is preparing for a final assault.

"If you really study his game, he's been just excellent over 185 feet of the 200 feet of the ice surface,'' said Flames' GM Brad Treliving Monday, shortly after announcing that RFA Lindholm had been signed on for the next six seasons.

"It's from the hashmarks in where he hasn't produced to a level that a lot of people predicted when he was drafted.

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Joe Cirella was adept at adapting his game as a player and brings same mindset to Stockton Heat bench

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Adaptability, in most any field of endeavour, is the key to achieving objectives.

"Oh, man," chuckles Joe Cirella, in town for last weekend's Flames' development-camp at Winsport. "My first pro coaches? Well, Bert Marshall and Marshall Johnston, for starters. Both old-school guys, right?

"Then there were the Doug Carpenters, the Tommy McVies. Jim Schoenfeld. Roger Neilson. Pierre Page.

"As a young player, you had some (tough) coaches and you had guys who were very good communicators, good motivators.

"So, sure, you do pick things out, make mental notes, keep things tucked, from 'back in the day' … both good and bad.

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Flames prospects Linus Lindstrom and Filip Sveningsson are inspired by legendary Forsberg - and dream of having same impact

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

They share an inspiration. An example to emulate. A body of work to aspire to.

The Hall-of-Fame centreman may have been in the golden autumn of his Hall-of-Fame career as they reached their teenaged years, but they've heard the stories. Remember the lustre. Poured over the clips. Long-ago committed the bible-length list of accomplishments to memory.

"Oh, Peter Forsberg, for sure,'' says Linus Lindstrom. "He was my favourite player."

Filip Sveningsson goes that a step further.

"Peter Forsberg. He was the best player."

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Treliving impressed with development camp and the staff who made it happen

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

It's break time during Sunday's development camp controlled scrimmage, on the top level of the Markin McPhail Centre overlooking the 197-feet-by-94 international-sized ice surface.

"Very successful,'' summarizes GM Brad Treliving of the Flames' 2018 development camp.

"It went really, really well. The whole thing has been a credit to Ray Edwards, Ronnie Sutter and the entire development team.

"A great job.

"They've put together a thorough agenda for a compressed amount of time. The guys are going, these are full days. They come in as 40 individuals but there is a method to the madness. They leave a closer group." 

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Flames impressed with goaltender Galajda after banner season at Cornell

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

This wasn't merely a season for the ol' scrapbook.

More along the lines of one for the ages.

"It was an unbelievable year,'' agrees Matthew Galajda, after getting off the ice at the Flames' development camp out at Winsport.

"Didn't really know what to expect when I got there but everything turned out beyond what I could've ever imagined.

"I had a great team in front of me. We have a great defensive system.

"I was definitely No. 2 at the start but got to play right off the start, in the very first game, when our senior goalie (Hayden Stewart) was injured two weeks before.

"So I knew there was a possibility I'd play and just prepared as best I could. Turned out to be a great first weekend for me and I just kept rolling from there."

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A spitting image of big brother Mark, David Jankowski also plays a similar style of game

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The resemblance is uncanny.

On a spitting image-calibre level. Positively brotherly, in fact.

"Yeah,'' admits David Jankowski with a resigned smile. "I get that a lot."

Stroll past and you do a double-take.

He could be a Mini-Mark. Or a Janko Jr.

"I guess we were like most brothers,'' says Mark Jankowski, the Flames' emerging force up front of his younger sibling. "He and I are only three years apart. We have a really close relationship.

"Growing up we'd always be at each other's games. And, I guess, at each other's throats. We had our battles, definitely.

"We're both really competitive. It's gotten to the point we can't play video games against each other because it's … too much. Those arguments get too heated because we're both grown up.

"So we play online or NHL EA so we can be on the same team.

"But that competitiveness, it creates a brotherly bond."

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As a kid, Milos Roman's family made the trek to the Czech Republic to further his hockey career

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The town of Kysucke Nove Mesto, nestled between the Javorniy and Kysucka vrchovina mountain ranges, lies close to Žilina in the northwest-central section of Slovakia.

When Milos Roman was a growing up there, the 16,500 residents were without a hockey-specific ice surface.

"So I'd travel every day after school to the Czech Republic, to Trinac,'' the 18-year-old, fourth-round pick of the Flames is explaining, on Day One of club's development camp out at Winsport. "I'd go with my brother. Back and forth.

"An hour to get there and an hour back after.

"I didn't watch a lot of NHL games on TV because they were too late at night. I had school, I had practices. But I loved hockey.

"We'd been figure skaters when we were younger. We played soccer, we played tennis, too, but we choose hockey. It was something we couldn't do in our hometown but that's what we wanted to do."

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Giordano weighs in on team's newcomers, including Neal: "He battles. He gets in your face. He's relentless that way."

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

That shot. An emphatic flick of the wrists and zing! Unleashed with the torque of a wet towel snapped in a stiff breeze.

"He finds a way to get it off so quick and, what's as important, is really, really accurate with it,'' marvels Flames' captain Mark Giordano of new band-mate James Neal.

"That's a pretty dangerous combination.

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