CALGARY, AB — A day away from the rink was a good thing for the Calgary Flames.
With the team stricken by the flu bug earlier this week, the team opted to have a recovery day on Friday rather than the scheduled practice. Today, everyone was accounted for at the morning skate and looked much healthier than in the days prior.
“Well, we are healthy, we’re still recovering. I believe that as an organization, we did the right thing giving the boys a day off yesterday trying to keep them home,” head coach Bob Hartley said. “Our trainers worked all day trying to sanitize every room around the dressing room. The gym and everywhere. Hopefully … we killed a few germs.”
The day off was particularly helpful for Jonas Hiller, who got the surprise start on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Hiller did not skate on Thursday morning but felt well enough to back-up Karri Ramo. He made his way to the Scotiabank Saddledome and was met with the sight of a flu-bitten Ramo.
“I tried to just make it to the game. They asked if I could backup and came in. The next thing I see is Karri [Ramo] leaning over a garbage can.
“It was a long night but I’ve played in longer games. We got the win and I definitely feel better today and we’ll see how it’s going to feel tonight.”
While Hiller and Ramo skated this morning, the coaching staff isn’t set on who will get the start tonight against the New York Rangers. They are going to wait until after warm-ups to make the call.
“Both guys are still recovering, so we want to make sure that whoever feels the best will get the start,” Hartley explained.
The Flames will also have a decision to make on the blueline. Kris Russell, who has been sidelined for the past three days with an upper body injury, could play this evening.
“It feels good. I’ve skated the last few days on my own. Ramped things up and the body feels good,” Russell stated.
“If they call on me, I’m ready.”
Forward Jiri Hudler is expected to return tonight. After missing Thursday’s game with the flu, he skated this morning and took drills with his linemates, Markus Granlund and Sam Bennett.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kris Russell — If he is cleared to play, Russell is confident he will be able to jump back into the swing of things quickly thanks to his training regimen while he was sidelined with an upper body injury.
“Make sure I worked hard off the ice and on the ice,” he said. “[Ryan Van Asten], he’s a great trainer, so he made sure that I was working hard.”
“During the games, I was lifting with the guys and stuff. I feel good and we’re lucky for the people that we have to get us quickly back in the lineup.”
Despite missing games, Russell is still the NHL’s leading shot blocker with 83 in 25 appearances. The 28-year-old has one goal and six points to his name this season.
Derick Brassard — The Rangers pivot scored twice in Edmonton on Friday night and has been the Blueshirts top forward in the last week. He has five points in his past four games and is now the Rangers second-leading scorer with 11 goals and 22 points, just two points shy of leader Mats Zuccarello.
Last year, the Hull, QC product set a new career-high with 60 points and is currently on pace to hit that mark against this year. He is on pace to hit 30 goals, which would be a new career-high if he is able to hit that mark.
ON THE SHELF
The Flames will be without Lance Bouma (broken fibula), who has been skating with the team and is getting closer to making his return.
“It might be next week, but it’s still iffy,” Hartley said of a possible return. “He’s doing good, but remember that the miracle of science and our medical staff have done great work with Booms. To his credit, he put in lots of work in the gym and he shouldn’t even be on the ice at this time. He’s way ahead of schedule, but at the same time, he’s not ready to play.”
The Rangers are missing Derek Stepan (broken ribs, 4-6 weeks) and Kevin Klein (strained oblique, 2-3 weeks).
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Johnny Gaudreau has now scored three game-winning goals in the last four games. He now has four game winners on the season, which is tied for second amongst NHLers trailing only Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin’s five.
MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
Johnny Gaudreau needs 7 points for 100.
Dennis Wideman needs 8 goals for 100.
Dougie Hamilton needs 8 points for 100.
TJ Brodie needs 9 assists for 100.
Jiri Hudler needs 12 points for 400.
“I hadn’t really skated for two days and my stomach was upset. I tried to get fluids in which wasn’t easy and I didn’t have a whole lot of energy. I just tried to pace myself and just try to do as much as needed and try to stay focused and try not to worry about the other thing.” – Jonas Hiller on Thursday’s game
RANGERS (18-9-3) at FLAMES (12-14-2)
TV: CBC, MSG+ (8:00 PM MT)
Season series: The New York Rangers will try for their second sweep of the Calgary Flames in as many seasons. New York won 4-1 at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 25. Dan Girardi scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, and Antti Raanta made 22 saves. Jiri Hudler scored for the Flames.
Rangers team scope: Raanta may get the start in the second half of a back-to-back when New York tries to avoid being swept on its three-game Western Canada trip. Raanta relieved starter Henrik Lundqvist early in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers and wound up taking the loss in a 7-5 defeat. When asked whether he wanted to start the night after being pulled, Lundqvist told MSG Network, “I leave that to the coach. If he tells me to play, I’ll play. I’ll analyze it quickly. There were some good things about this game, but there were definitely some things that need to improve.” The Rangers overcame deficits of 3-1 and 5-3, only to allow the Oilers to score the game-winning goal 12 seconds after Rick Nash had tied it with 1:46 remaining. “We’ve got 24 hours to think this through and find a way to compete harder, to battle harder, find a way to win a hockey game,” said captain Ryan McDonagh, who was minus-4.
Flames team scope: Health may dictate which goaltender plays as the Flames go for their ninth consecutive win at Scotiabank Saddledome. Jonas Hiller missed practice Wednesday with an illness but wound up playing Thursday in a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres because Karri Ramo was ill. Hudler also missed the game because of the illness going through the locker room. Coach Bob Hartley called off practice Friday and hopes to have enough healthy bodies. Two players who have been healthy and producing are linemates Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, who combined for three of the four goals against Buffalo. “The chemistry between [Monahan] and Johnny is back,” Hartley told the Calgary Herald. “We put David Jones on that [right] side to open things up, he’s giving us some forechecking and net presence, also. They’re passing the puck well and playing well.”
The Flames projected lineup for Saturday, Dec. 12 vs. the New York Rangers
NOTES: Tonight’s starting goaltender will be decided after warm-ups. Jonas Hiller and Karr Ramo skated today but both had the flu this week. Both were feeling better today but the coaching staff will wait to make the decision and see how they feel closer to game time … Kris Russell skated with the team and will be a game-time decision. The defensive pairings are speculative based on having Russell play this evening.