CALGARY AB - FEBRUARY 19: Fans attend the game between the Calgary Flames Alumni and the Montreal Canadiens Alumni held as part of the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic festivities at McMahon Stadium on February 19 2011 in Calgary Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
Alex Tanguay's plan seems to have backfired on him.
"We're going to get the Alumni to make the ice better for us, and it should be good," he said in a press conference following Flames' practice yesterday afternoon.
The Flames Alumni weren't the ones taking a beating yesterday, as ice maker Dan Craig was hard at work smoothing out the ice surface after a cold day that involved two team practices, a family skate, and the forty-minute Alumni Game caused its conditions to deteriorate.
Players and fans alike left the stadium yesterday hoping for improved conditions, confident that Craig and his ice crew would work their magic, but the chilly high of -10 degrees celsius forecasted for this afternoon promises to take its toll as the game progresses.
Challenging ice and weather conditions are nothing new for players who grew up skating on the nearest outdoor rink, and although certainly a factor in the outcome of today's game, they are far from the Flames' biggest concern. Having not played since Wednesday night, the Flames find themselves on the outside of the West's top eight once again, in a four-way tie for sixth place with 3/5 of the Pacific Division in the Stars, Kings, and Ducks. For a team like the Flames who have been winning games every which way for quite some time now, extended breaks seem like the enemy.
The Flames will be facing a Montreal team that has lost four of their past five games, including a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the basement-dwelling Oilers in their last outing. The depleted Habs will get a boost in the return of former Flame Mike Cammalleri, who expedited his return from injury for the Heritage Classic, and possibly defencemen Hal Gill and James Wisniewski, who left Thursday's game after taking a puck to the face. I believe both practiced with the team yesterday.
"We've got 22 games left in the regular season. They're all huge games for us. So tomorrow, like I said, we'll be ready to play and I'm sure Montreal will too. Big game for them, too," said Head Coach Brent Sutter, addressing the media post-practice.
There's no doubt that this is an exciting day for both sides, regardless of how many times coaches insist that it's just another game and they're approaching it as such.
"On game day, it's game day and guys know it," Sutter said when asked how his team would respond to potential distractions. "They're professional athletes. And they understand circumstances and they understand how important the game is. So I don't think that will be an issue at all."
Nothing much has changed for the Flames since we last saw them, as they're expected to ice the same lineup that lead them to victory Wednesday against the Dallas Stars.
Carey Price and his spiffy new mask will counter in net for the Habs. Price has just one win in his past five games, allowing a total of sixteen goals--although an 8-6 loss to the Bruins on February 9th accounted for half of those.
Win or lose, this is going to be a fantastic experience for fans, players, and coaches. I had the pleasure of meeting several members of the M&G community who have travelled to Calgary to take in the game last night, and I hope that you all enjoy yourselves to the fullest! Whether you're at home or in the stands at McMahon, enjoy the game and stay warm!