Baertschi back and ready to start producing
Flames prospect hopes injuries are few and far between in career
The Sven Baertschi rocket ship to the stars has been wheeled back out onto the launching pad. After being aborted during the opening stages of initial liftoff due to mechanical failure, the countdown has begun anew.
3, 2, 1 ...
“You never like to be injured,’’ said the gregarious, perspiring freely and plainly happy, Baertschi following Friday’s workout at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “Just waiting, spending a lot of time in the weight room ...
“You want to be on the ice. It’s good to be back in a normal practice.
“It’s never easy.’’ A resigned shrug. “I guess it wasn’t THAT long. Could’ve been worse. I’m excited to be back out there. I’ve already forgotten about everything that was before.
“I really hate it. You’re up in the press box or sitting down here on the couch watching games on TV. It’s something I don’t want to do too often in my future.
“I’m happy it’s over now.
“It’s a fresh start. Starting from zero.’’
That he is. Zero goals. Zero assists. Zero points.
Given the torrent of hype that preceded the start of Baertschi’s first National Hockey League campaign, such modest early-season returns certainly weren’t what he, or we, had envisioned. Neither was that hip flexor injury sustained during a late January workout that’s limited participation to the opening four starts.
He may not have set the world afire in that brief audition, but the kid’s got enough confidence in his skill set not to go tinkering and tampering simply because of an inconclusive sample size.
“No, no. I never really want to change my game. That’s the way I play. I’m a guy who plays hard. I’m a guy who can make plays and score goals.
“That’s the way I am. That’s how I’ve played since I was four years old. So I’m just going to bring the fire.’’
Fire, as luck would have it, is a commodity much in demand around these parts right now. Compete level, coach Bob Hartley readily admits, has been a thorny issue the past two games, both losses. There’s also the not-insignificant issue of one goal scored — collectively — over those 120 minutes.
Baertschi hopes to be a tonic for both ailments.
“He’s a 20-year-old kid, so he has the entire NHL world to learn about,’’ said Hartley. “While he was not playing, we were telling him: ‘Watch the game. Not like a fan. Watch certain players, certain veterans, how they react in certain situations. How they react to certain plays.’
“Like any 20-year-old kid in this league he comes in with lots of talent, lots of great qualities to offer — with Sven it’s speed, it’s skill — but also has to learn about the NHL. He’s a kid that we count on in our lineup.’’
A final decision on Baertschi’s inclusion into the lineup Saturday to face the Minnesota Wild won’t be made until morning. But Friday, he gave every appearance of a guy set to be pencilled in, operating on a line alongside Jiri Hudler and Blake Comeau.
“Sven’s close,’’ is as definitive an answer as Hartley was willing to provide.
The Flames’ other heralded freshman, Roman Cervenka, could be one of those making way for Baertschi’s return. It certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see the Czech star draw the first short straw of his North American stay, seeing as how Friday he wasn’t working with a set line (usually a dead giveaway).
Dealing with the blood clot issues that clouded his arrival here, the harsh reality of a compressed schedule combined with the acclimatization to the vastly more punishing NHL style was always a lot to ask. On Wednesday vs. the pounding-pounding-pounding L.A. Kings, Cervenka, who’d flashed some lovely moments of skill off and on, struggled to catch up to the physical demands of the task.
“Roman, let’s remember, was shut down for a full two months and we started full speed,’’ said Hartley.
“And now, I think to a certain point, it’s catching up to him. We sat with him. But again, to sit with Roman right now while he’s taking English lessons, it’s not real easy to get what’s inside of him.
“But, we have a good feel for this. He’s another player, while he’s learning the league, we have to work in getting him better.’’
Didn’t help that Cervenka was hit in the neck/throat area by a flying puck during that 3-1 loss, either.
“I talked to him after the game, and he had a hard time to talk,’’ said Hartley. “But this morning he seemed OK. He was lucky that it was kind of a floating puck, it got him right in the neck and the throat. On the bench, our medical guy attended to him. For a while he was pretty sore. That area’s pretty dangerous. You always want to make sure you’re cautious. But, from what I got today, he was fine.’’
The idea of sitting a player down, allowing him to exhale, take stock and recalibrate, isn’t a foreign one to the boss.
“Last year, I sat a guy in the Swiss league and it was almost like I murdered someone. But the guy turned it around and he was one of our best players in the playoffs.
“Sometimes you take a step back, you get a fresh start. Sometimes it’s a little lesson.’’
Sven Baerteshi’s step back, his lesson, was due to unforeseen circumstances, of course. In this, a second “start” to his first season, he’s wisely playing it cool.
“I’ve got a lot to learn,’’ he cautioned. “I’m not going to come in and expect to start scoring goals like crazy. I want to give myself a little time. I want to score goals and make plays, and I want to bring that in slowly. Coming back from an injury, I want to get back to the basic things, build some confidence and get going.
“I’m all fired up.’’
Ready for relaunch.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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