Flames miss injured Russell


Team anxiously awaiting return of puck-moving defenceman


He’s absent, sure, but don’t blame Kris Russell. It’s not his idea.

The Calgary Flames defenceman, according to his boss, has zero interest in sitting out — even while being hampered by lower-body issues.

“The other night he told me, ‘If you want me to play, I’ll play,’ ” Flames coach Bob Hartley said Friday, the day after the alternate captain missed his second straight start. “That’s who is.”

Hartley added: “There’s no way that we would (allow him to suit up). We’re not going to take any chances.”

No, despite Russell’s value to the Calgary back-end, the Flames will make do without No. 4.

“He’s a great puck-mover . . . obviously, it changes the dynamic of our blue line,” said Hartley, who, because of Russell’s unavailability, has promoted Ladislav Smid to the second pairing with Dennis Wideman and inserted Raphael Diaz into the everyday rotation. “You don’t control injuries. It opens the door for Raffi to get in the lineup, to get responsibilities. Obviously, it changes our game plan . . . but it doesn’t change our expectations.”

Bottom line?

“Still uncertain,” Hartley said of Russell’s activation for Saturday’s visit by the New Jersey Devils. “We’re going to wait and see. I would say that Kris Russell is closer (to returning) than David Jones.”

Sick-bay roundup

Centre Matt Stajan (knee) skated before Friday’s practice with Russell and centre Joe Colborne (wrist).

Forwards Mikael Backlund (abdomen), Mason Raymond (shoulder), Jones (upper body) did not go for a spin.

Yakking about Jagr

Johnny Gaudreau, as a pint-sized forward, always looks forward to running across his comparables. Such as Danny Briere and Patrick Kane.

But Jaromir Jagr — who, listed at six-foot-three and 230 pounds, is definitely not wee — also made an impression.

The Flames rookie faced Jagr at last year’s world championship in Belarus.

“He’s just so strong on the puck,” said Gaudreau. “It was pretty special to play against a guy who’s been playing since I was born.”

Gaudreau came into this world in 1993, three years after Jagr was drafted.

Goalie Karri Ramo has had more than a brush with Jagr. They had been teammates for two winters with KHL Omsk Avangard, 2009-11.

“Oh, he has his own ways,” a smiling Ramo said of the 42-year-old. “But he’s just a normal guy who loves to play hockey. A funny guy to be around. A great teammate. His world is all about hockey — he does everything to be a better hockey player. He lives by that.”

Jagr happens to be leading the Devils in scoring. So he’s hardly fading.

“He’s what? Forty-something now?” said Ramo. “He looks to be a better hockey player every day. And it looks like he’s still going strong — for a few more years, at least.

“He loves hockey so much, I can’t see him doing anything else, except playing. I can’t see him coaching. He’ll play until he can’t.”

Bounce-back ability

The Flames are 7-0-1 this season following a loss of any sort.

“I trust my players,” Hartley said of his team’s bounce-back capabilities. “The leadership they’ve shown, it’s always allowed us to respond. For me, that’s huge. We don’t want to get caught in a losing streak — because that kills you.”

Only six teams have not lost back-to-back dates in regulation time this season — Anaheim, Detroit, Nashville, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Calgary.

“To make up ground past the halfway point of the season, it’s really, really tough,” said Hartley. “We’re demanding on the players . . . but there’s a huge reward at the other end.”


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