Again, for a second day in a row, Jaromir Jagr was practising on the Calgary Flames third line.
And, on Friday, the 45-year-old winger took it a step further by skating reps on their first and second powerplay units.
But while all signs are pointing to Jagr playing his first National Hockey League game with a Canadian team — Saturday’s home opener against the Winnipeg Jets (8 p.m., Sportsnet One, Sportsnet 960 The Fan) ultimately, it’s still not Glen Gulutzan’s final call on whether or not the NHL future Hall of Famer is ready.
“We’ll let Jags decide that, so we’ll see (Saturday),” said the Flames head coach. “It’s the second day of training camp for him, really, so we’ll know more (Saturday) and we’ll see how he feels.
“It’ll be his decision.”
Jagr practised in Micheal Ferland’s normal spot on the first-unit powerplay and also spent some time with the second-unit powerplay in Michael Frolik’s regular position.
It was a natural progression from Jagr’s first skate with his new team on Thursday and should come as no surprise that he’s already factoring heavily into the Flames’ plans.
Gulutzan said he wanted to get Jagr used to the looks of both man advantage units . . . you know . . . just in case.
“His skill is the big thing,” Gulutzan said. “He never panics in those areas. What I found with Jags lately is he goes to the net a lot more. He recognizes where the fish are and they bite around the net. The thing is, he’s skilled in all aspects, he can shoot the puck and has a long reach. He gets to pucks so well . . . a lot of the powerplay is getting things on net and retrieving and getting those broken plays.
“There’s no one better at that kind of stuff (than Jagr).”
Jagr’s arrival has been a welcome distraction the past two days since returning home from Wednesday’s 3-0 season opening loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It somewhat softened the blow.
Still, the message was clear during Friday’s practice. Gulutzan stressed up-tempo repetitions in practice with their defence, man advantage, and making sure they were managing the blueline.
“We were trying to get the guys a good hard sweat and mimic the best they can as to what the game will be like (Saturday),” Gulutzan. “It’s about managing your emotion level. Everyone gets jacked up and if you look at the game we just played, we might have been too jacked up that we didn’t come out strong. It’s about saving your energy and don’t idle so high during the day . . . we’re managing the mental side.”
Mike Smith returned to the ice on Friday after taking Thursday off, following a 42-save performance that likely made him feel like he was back in the desert.
“The best thing we did (Wednesday) . . . he faced a few shots in Arizona the last couple of years, we wanted to introduce him to that here,” Gulutzan joked. “Maybe we can taper it back somewhat.”
Truth be told, the heavy workload was impressive and was a nice introduction for Smith to the (impatient) fanbase that is hoping the Flames general manager made the right choice when acquiring the 35-year-old netminder.
But Smith admitted there were nerves that went into Wednesday’s game, too.
“There’s some adrenalin that goes into playing your first game,” he said. “You’d like to pull that back and stay as calm as you can in there and be good positionally. But as the game went on, I felt more comfortable and I was just trying to be solid in there for this group.
“But honestly that game’s over as far as I’m concerned. I have a short memory and I’m worried about (Saturday) night.”
And, according to Flames captain Mark Giordano, the team will be better with Jagr in the lineup.
“His skill and his vision is second-to-none,” Giordano said. “We can learn a lot from him . . . It’ll give us a boost, for sure, when he does get in the lineup. Looking forward to it.”
Twitter/Kristen_OdlandGame Day: Jets at Flames Hamonic's D-Partner Program scores big for grieving kids
Source : http://calgaryherald.com/sports/hockey/nhl/jagr-or-no-jagr-flames-focused-on-jets