Sven Baertschi, at first, didn’t understand the question — Is he “chomping at the bit?” — but he dug the concept.
So, yes, you could say the Swiss rookie is thrilled to return to the Calgary Flames’ lineup after missing 11 games with hip-flexor issues.
“When you have an injury, you can’t wait till you get back, being around the guys and, hopefully, winning hockey games,” said Baertschi, who draws in tonight — at Roman Cervenka’s expense — against the visiting Minnesota Wild. “I’m in and I’m excited about it. The goal is to get back out there and play 100 per cent, go in the battles, work really hard. I don’t want to be shy or anything.”
For Baertschi, of course, any mention of Minnesota brings back fond memories. At the Xcel Energy Center, he was drafted (13th overall, 2011) and he scored his first-ever goal there (March 11, 2012).
“You try to take as many positive things out as you can going into every game,” Baertschi said after this morning’s skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “(Playing Minnesota) kind of reminds me of last season. It was great to be up here (in the NHL) and score against Minnesota. And I was drafted there, so even more special. It’s a positive thing to take into the game and it gives me some extra fuel.”
The Flames, perhaps wisely, continue to downplay the presence of Baertschi, who has zero points (in four games), so far, in his first full season in the NHL.
“Here’s a young player that has a lot of abilities and we can certainly use his speed in our lineup,” said coach Bob Hartley. “His offence is certainly needed. But at the same time for him, it’s going to be a learning process. Let’s not go crazy over Sven. He’s a very young player. Like I always say, he has a lot to offer, but still has a lot to learn.”
Also noteworthy this morning:
- RW Akim Aliu, a disturber, suits up tonight, as confirmed by Hartley: “Moises will be in the lineup,” referring to baseball player Moises Alou. (“Moises was my favourite Expo.”) In a not unrelated matter, C Mikael Granlund comes out of the Minnesota lineup, and back in goes toughie C Zenon Konopka (who, the last time the Wild was here, spent much of the warm-up yelling at C Blair Jones and C Matt Stajan).
“I’m definitely not as nervous as I was last year,” Aliu said of his appearances for the Flames in Games 81 and 82. “It was an unbelievable couple games last year playing in front of these fans, so I’m super-excited to get in front of them again and hopefully get this place rocking again. I’m excited to do that.”
- The Flames have a measly two wins in nine home-ice dates, 2-5-2. “We’ve got to be a better team here,” said C Matt Stajan. “In the past, we’ve been pretty good on home ice, including last year (23-12-6). We’ve got to get that feeling back in this building. If we’re going to make a run, it’s got to start in this building. This is where we should be comfortable playing.”
Added D Mark Giordano: “I don’t think we can afford to fall any further behind. We’re looking at the last 33 games ... and we have to win a good chunk of them.”
- Hartley addressed his team’s own-zone issues: “Right now, (breakdowns) happen way too often in the slot area — we call this the bank. We had a couple of hold-ups at our own bank in the last couple of games. We want to try to minimize this.”
- On the blue line, it appears that D Cory Sarich and D Anton Babchuk draw short straws.
- Apparently, D Mark Giordano would like his name pronounced Jor-dano, not Gee-or-dano (as nearly everyone in the city has for years). Shades of D Toni Lydman, who, upon leaving Calgary, suddenly became Lude-man, not Lid-man.
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