SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' Sarich lowers boom

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:43 PM ET

CALGARY - Going after the biggest member of the opposition isn't always the most highly recommended way to get involved in your first game of the season, but for Flames blueliner Cory Sarich, it seemed like a good idea Saturday night.

The veteran defenceman set his sights on Edmonton Oilers goon Steve MacIntyre and lowered the shoulder, resulting in board-rattling contact.

With the hit, Sarich let off a little steam and announced his presence early after sitting out the first three games of the year as a healthy scratch.

“Yeah, why not? If you can smoke a guy like that, it’ll get the building going,” Sarich said of the run at the Oilers tough guy, who weighs in at about 250 lb. “I mean, I didn’t have a very good angle on him and he is a big man — he’s probably got about 40-pounds-plus on me — but I’ve run into a lot of big guys before.”

It used to be a common occurrence.

Sarich had a 453-game ironman streak — the NHL’s longest active consecutive-games spree at the time — snuffed out by former Flames coach Mike Keenan back in March of 2008, but quickly returned as a full-time defender in the days and years that followed.

But for some reason, the 32-year-old has found himself watching games instead of playing in them this year.

If it was meant to motivate him, it might have worked. Sarich wasn’t the team’s best defenceman in the 5-3 win over the Oilers, but he played with pride and finished knowing he put everything he had into the contest.

“It felt really good,” Sarich said Monday before flying out for the Flames’ three-game road trip. “From a physical standpoint, I felt good. You’re never too sure how your legs are going to feel and how things are going to hold up.

“I did everything I could to stay ready.”

The 6-foot-4, 207-pounder wanted to be a physical force, hence the early aim at MacIntyre.

“I felt a little bit sloppy in that regard sometimes, just a little off balance here and there,” Sarich said. “But I thought I made some good decisions with the puck.”

Finishing with 18:18 of ice time, 3:19 of it on the perfect-on-the-night penalty kill, Sarich also earned an assist and a plus-2 rating.

That was what head coach Brent Sutter hoped and expected to see from his veteran, who dressed in place of rookie T.J. Brodie.

“I thought he handled it well,” Sutter said. “It was certainly a level towards where we expect Cory to be at as far as his game and how he has to play.”

Wanting to prove he could make a difference for the team, Sarich said he wasn’t feeling at all nervous about getting back into the lineup.

“I felt really relaxed. I don’t know what it was. Just gonna go out and do my thing. That’s all I can do. Either they’ll take it or leave it,” Sarich said. “And things worked out.

“Hopefully they want to roll with it again.”

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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