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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 22, 2020
Flames coach Geoff Ward instructs the team during Calgary Flames training camp at the Saddledome in Calgary on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Flames David Rittich (L) greets Elias Lindholm and Oliver Kylington during Calgary Flames training camp at the Saddledome in Calgary on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Flames Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano skate as practice begins during Calgary Flames training camp at the Saddledome in Calgary on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Calgary Flames interim skipper Geoff Ward can’t reveal the exact reason for these strange training-camp roster splits.
“Circumstances” will remain the company line. That’s not going to change.
Ward, however, wants to rule out one potential explanation. He stressed the nine gents — including several key contributors — in the afternoon wave are not being separated as some sort of punishment for their post-pause fitness level.
“I’ve heard a bit of a rumour out there that people think that some of this stuff may be due to shape, and it certainly isn’t,” Ward told media Wednesday, bringing that topic up himself. “I’ve been impressed and the coaches and management, we’ve all been really impressed at how the guys have come in and the shape of our group. It’s been excellent.”
The Flames’ training-camp breakdown has yet to change — four forward lines, nine blue-liners and three puck-stoppers in the early session, followed by just eight skaters and one masked man in the afternoon crew.
With superstar left-winger Johnny Gaudreau split from his usual linemates and power-play pals, it’s been the talk of the town.
It’s important to note every player is regularly tested for COVID-19 and must be symptom-free to even enter the rink, so the best guess is this is a precautionary measure based on potential secondary exposure.
“It’s not the most ideal conditions,” Ward said after the third day of this unprecedented summer camp at the Saddledome. “But in saying that, we have to make the best of what we’ve got. The most important thing for us is that we get our work in, we get our reps in, and the guys are certainly getting that. So we feel like it’s a benefit for us to have a bit of a longer camp. That’s going to help us, for sure, based on how it’s started out.
“We have to evaluate it on a daily basis and just worry about what we can control. As I’ve been saying all along, the circumstances have dictated some strange things, but we have to adhere to that right now.”
When that will change, nobody is sure.
Ward doesn’t seem too worried, saying he’s pleased with the business-like attitude and the “mature approach” that he’s seen so far in Phase 3.
He added they haven’t had to mess much with their usual off-ice routines.
He would, however, like to get the whole gang back together.
“As quickly as we possibly can, our goal is to jump into some scrimmaging and intrasquad games so we can elevate what we feel is a necessity of our training camp to another notch,” Ward said.
AROUND THE BOARDS
Some folks figure the NHL’s schedule-makers are nuts for arranging an exhibition between the Flames and arch-rival Edmonton Oilers.
After all, there was plenty of beef in four regular-season instalments of the Battle of Alberta, with scraps and stick-work, disciplinary hearings, a war of words in the media and even a goalie fight.
Can Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian really be trusted to play nice in a tune-up? With just one exhibition prior to the qualification round, neither side will want to sit their stars for this July 28 friendly.
“We’re really looking forward to the game just because we’re playing a really good team, and that is going to be good for us,” Ward said. “The intensity, because it’s Edmonton, is going to be like a playoff intensity. We’re going to play against some really, really good players, which is great. I think that prepares our group. We’re going to see good special-teams — Edmonton’s special-teams are excellent — so our special teams are going to get a real good test.
“So I think for everything that we need to see (before) a playoff series, I don’t think you could have picked a better opponent for us to play than Edmonton, to be honest with you. Because I think it’s as close to a playoff simulation as we’re going to get, against a team that I feel is a really, really complete team and deep team. So we like the fact that we’re going to play them in an exhibition game.
“And the guys aren’t crazy. They know what’s at stake. This is an exhibition to get ready for playoffs, so I’m sure both teams will have that in mind.”
OFF THE GLASS
Three days into training camp at the Saddledome, still no sign of forwards Dillon Dube and Buddy Robinson. Both are “unable to participate,” which is all the NHL and NHLPA will allow clubs to say about health/injury status … Two of Calgary’s most reliable centres — Mikael Backlund and Derek Ryan — may already be dealing with nagging injuries. Backlund made an early exit from Wednesday’s skate and didn’t return, although Ward told reporters later, “I don’t really have a high level of concern with it.” Ryan disappeared midway through Monday’s opening session and has not been spotted on the ice since … Congratulations to Calgary-raised Cale Makar, confirmed Wednesday as a finalist for the Calder Trophy. It must have been a proud day for the local programs that helped groom the Colorado Avalanche rookie rearguard for primetime. Makar is an alum of the Crowchild Hockey Association — now the Northwest Warriors — and Northwest Calgary Athletic Association (NWCAA).
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020