Flames notes: Bancks could get first NHL start on Tuesday
Winger feels he’s ready to make the jump, could follow late-season debuts of other young guns
Nashville, TENN. — How could Carter Bancks ever forget his first appearance in the Western Hockey League?
Sixteen years old, he’d been called up from the Kimberley (Junior B) Dynamiters in time to join the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the tail-end of the 2005-06 campaign.
“I got hit so hard on my first shift I could hardly see straight,” said Bancks, with a chuckle. “I was only 145, 150 pounds back then. It was against the boards. The end of a shift, I had to get the puck in deep. (Portland’s Mike Funk) was a little bit bigger and skated a little bit faster than the defencemen in Junior B — so he closed that gap pretty quick and caught me pretty good.
“But that kind of settled me right in. After that, it went really well.”
First games do end up being memorable for different reasons.
In his professional debut — only days after finishing his overage year with Lethbridge — Bancks did well enough that he stuck with the Abbotsford Heat for their American Hockey League playoff run in 2010.
“That was a big jump,” he said. “I definitely had to adjust.”
Now there’s another — and very obvious — check mark he’d like to stick on his hockey list.
And he may get it Tuesday when the Flames take on the Nashville Predators. Bancks said he hasn’t been told if he’s in the lineup.
Regardless, he’s ready for that first spin in the NHL.
“I’m going to keep working hard in practice and showing up with a positive attitude,” said the 23-year-old winger, who skated alongside Paul Byron and Akim Aliu during Monday’s session at the Bridgestone Arena. “Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to play. The butterflies are going to be there, there’s no doubt about that.”
All around him in the dressing room are players who have recently put that NHL notch on their belts. Guys such as Max Reinhart, Ben Hanowski, Mark Cundari.
“I’m already pretty nervous just coming to practices,” said Bancks, a five-foot-11, 180-pound pepper pot. “I mean, I’ve worked my whole life for this opportunity. It hasn’t always been the easiest way for me . . . but it’s definitely worth it to come up here for this last week. It’s already been a tonne of fun, a great experience.”
Flames rookie defenceman Mark Cundari’s ice time Sunday was no record, but it had been noteworthy.
His toil, 24:54, was the most for an NHL debut since Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman’s 26:27 on Oct. 3, 2009. And Cundari’s first appearance with the Flames had been busier than even that of Dion Phaneuf, who piled up 24:10.
“It felt longer, to be honest, because I was exhausted,” Cundari said of his workload. “The third period came around and I was looking up at the clock and I was like, ‘Oh my, there’s 13 minutes left. I’m dying right now.’ I definitely wasn’t expecting to play that much. Oh man, I slept. I watched a little TV, a little ESPN, then I fell asleep. I was out cold.”
Now, after collecting a goal and an assist in his first game, the bar has been set awfully high.
“I guess you could say that,” said Cundari, chuckling. “But not every game is going to be a two-point performance and 25 minutes of ice time, but I definitely felt comfortable playing here. And I feel that I’ll definitely keep producing . . . and hopefully we get more outcomes like that.”
He did hear from plenty of well-wishers immediately after the 4-1 win in Minnesota.
“Before we got on the (post-game) flight, there had to be 30, 35 (voice mails and texts),” he said. “They kept pouring in. It was cool to hear from everyone.”
NOSE OUT OF JOINT
To be honest, it looked better than expected.
Sure, Cory Sarich had a black eye. But his poor old honker was actually straight — unlike the previous night when Minnesota defender Clayton Stoner, with a punch, had relocated it about an inch to the west. A doctor at the rink had reset it.
“He puts a little tool up there and whacks it into place,” said Sarich. “I thought it would be (painful), but it wasn’t bad at all. Maybe because my nose has been broken so many times before, it was ready for it.
Asked for a career total for busted beaks, the Flames veteran hemmed and hawed.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve cracked it a numerous amount of times right on the bridge. Probably four or five times, I’ve cracked it . . . but I’ve never really had it knocked out of place like that before. So that was a first.”
Sarich, who practised with his mates Monday afternoon, indicated that he’s ready for action.
“I’m fine,” he said. “It’s a little tender. I don’t think I’d want to take one off it again any time soon. Other than that, it’s all right.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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