The Flames’ three biggest questions at the start of NHL restart week


Cam Talbot didn’t see any action in the Calgary Flames’ last intra-squad game.

He sat on the bench for all three periods wearing most of his gear, topped with a baseball cap and face covering as he watched David Rittich play the entire game.

At the other end of the ice, Jon Gillies and Artyom Zagidulin have gone their separate ways.

Is Talbot nursing an injury?

Are the club leaving him as their chosen starter on Tuesday in Edmonton and, subsequently, against Winnipeg?

Or does that mean Rittich is now their man?

Coach Geoff Ward later said he wanted to see the other two goalies and suggested not to read them, which is difficult to do given the importance of the decision.

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Camp officially ended on Saturday, but the Calgary Flames have a few more questions to answer before opening their qualifying series against Winnipeg on August 1.

Let’s take a look at the three biggest:

Who will start in net?

It could very well come down to who plays the best against Edmonton on Tuesday, when Ward said he tends to split the time between the two guys.

“I think it’s important that we see the two guys under live ammunition and see where they’re at,” he said, further suggesting that they still haven’t made up their minds on one. starter of the first game.

“We are happy with the way the goalies played.

It’s been pretty well documented around these games that Rittich was the team’s pre-Christmas MVP, taking on the heaviest load in the league admirably.

For the third year in a row, he sagged in the second half, registering the second-highest goals-against average (3.55) and second-lowest save percentage (0.889) in the league during of the new year.

That’s when Talbot shone, putting together a brilliant few months that had allowed him to start easily if the playoffs hadn’t been put on a hiatus for four months.

Talbot has 15 games of playoff experience under his belt, while Rittich is still waiting for his first taste in the playoffs. This is not trivial.

All else being equal, management would probably like to be able to hand over the keys to Rittich to see if he’s really up to the challenge. He’s under contract with the Flames for another year and is named internally as the goalie of the future.

But is it future now?

Or do you start Talbot and risk him stepping up his action as a pending UFA that you would like to re-sign at the end of the season?

That said, you can bet that everyone who makes the decisions has only one consideration in mind – which goalie gives them the best chance of winning right now.

Give Talbot the advantage so far in camp and during scrums, which is not unimportant as coaches and management try to see who can jump into the scrum as neatly as possible.

The two are popular in the room and the duo have a great relationship, which means whatever decision is made it won’t break the team’s chemistry.

Expect the starter to have a short leash no matter who it is.

He says here: Talbot should and will start.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people in the hockey world, and then they tell listeners what they heard and what they think about it.

Will Juuso Valimaki play?

Very doubtful.

While speculation is rampant that the 21-year-old first won’t get his first glimpse of the action this season in the playoffs, his status has remained a closely guarded secret by the GM who refuses to let the media speak. at the Finnish Blueliner.

The pairings at this point seem set in stone with Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie headlining a background that has Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson and Derek Forbort with Erik Gustafsson.

Oliver Kylington and Michael Stone have played many games in the NHL this season and are able to step in if necessary, leaving Valimaki quite far in the depth tables given he spent the year recovering from surgery. Knee.

In Friday’s scrum he was paired with black ace Alexander Yelesin, which is another sign that he will stay on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

As good as he looks at camp, how well could he make his debut into the season with everything on the line?

He’s still the future defensive star for the Flames, which is all the more reason to protect him and be extra careful when he comes back.

If he does play, the team would need to protect him in the expansion draft before captain Mark Giordano and anyone else the team may sign this summer. Not ideal.

The only way it makes sense to consider playing him is if the Flames have injury issues in a deep run.

It is said here: he will watch from afar.

How Calgary will use Sam Bennett?

Outside of Milan Lucic, no one on the Flames roster has had more playoff success than Bennett.

He raised his eyebrows as a rookie in 2015, acting like a human wrecking bullet against Vancouver in his playoff debut as he was integral to the team’s only playoff win since 2004.

His three goals and boundless energy in three games caused the Canucks to go down and many believe the fourth overall pick would be a star.

He did it again two years later with two goals in the Flames’ four-game dismissal, and last year he was one of the only bright spots against Colorado, leading the team in commitment and in points, with five.

This number corresponded to the number of points accumulated by the entire top row.

Earlier this week, Bennett reiterated how much he appreciates the physicality and emotion of the postseason – two aspects of the game that the Flames seem to miss the most every spring.

So how do the Flames make sure Bennett has ample opportunity to make his mark on this series?

Well, an early injury to Derek Ryan opened the door for Bennett to move from the fourth-row winger to the third-row center for the first two scrimmages.

He responded with three points in his first game as part of an eight-point outing between Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube.

Of course, intra-squad points mean little, but what mattered was that he stayed in Ryan’s place even when the veteran center returned to the scrum fight last Sunday.

Ryan returned to his usual spot on Thursday, which was understandable and expected given the chemistry and results of his line in the final month of the season.

This sent Bennett back to the fourth row, where he will no doubt have ample opportunity to crash, punch and drag the Flames into the fight.

If he returns to past playoff form, coach Geoff Ward will try to give the 24-year-old some extra time, even if he lines up early in the evening on the final result.

There is also a chance that Bennett will move to the middle on that line with Tobias Rieder and Zac Rinaldo, knocking out Mark Jankowski from the roster.

It says here: Bennett will stand out again on the fourth row.


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