CALGARY - In the days leading up to his return to Calgary, Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he felt nothing extra special about a game against the Flames.
He may be saying those words, but it’s worth asking players who served under Sutter if they believed them.
“Do you believe that?” replied Calgary defenceman Scott Hannan, who played under Sutter for parts of five seasons in San Jose. “You want to win every game, but those games are extra special. When you play your old team, of course you’re wound up. You’re playing a sport and everybody’s competitive.”
Sutter spent eight years with the Flames organization, hired as head coach midway through the 2002-03 season before adding the GM title after that season.
He held both jobs through the 2005-06 campaign before bumping himself upstairs to concentrate solely on GM duties.
He resigned midway through last season but, after nearly a year out of hockey, took the coaching job in Los Angeles last month.
When Sutter took over coaching in Calgary, he downplayed the importance of his first game against the San Jose Sharks, who fired him a month before he went to Calgary.
However, the players knew the importance of that game, Craig Conroy recalled.
“He wouldn’t let his team know, but it’s important to him,” Conroy said. “Our first game against San Jose with him (a 5-2 loss) ... he was not happy. He didn’t make the game feel any different before the game, but when he came into the room after the first period, he was mad. He was mad at all of us.”
“I’m sure he’d like to win,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. “But I think it’s cooler to be facing his brother. I don’t think it’s a personal thing, ‘We want to beat Darryl.’ It’s about the standings. It’s not about getting back at somebody.”
In fact, his former players were happy to catch up with the former coach.
“I think he’s really enjoying being back behind the bench. I saw him this morning, and he was pretty relaxed,” said Conroy, now the special assistant to the GM. “But I know it’ll be different come 5 o’clock. By eight o’clock, boom, it’ll be on.”
ON THE MEND
Flames centre Matt Stajan practised Saturday for the first time since suffering a high-ankle sprain in the Dec. 18 game in Chicago.
Stajan, one of seven players out of action due to injury right now — a list which doesn’t include defenceman Brett Carson, who’s currently on a conditioning assignment — skated by himself a couple of times this week, but this was a big step forward.
“I want to get back with the guys and get my pace back up,” Stajan said. “At this point, you hope there’s no setbacks, but it feels good. Then, I’ve got to get some contact and some game-like stuff. Hopefully I can find my way back into the lineup before the (all-star) break. That’s the plan.
It’s the first time Stajan suffered a high-ankle sprain.
“It’s not a fun injury,” he said. “All ankle sprains are bad, but mine was a grade level less than some guys have had, so I was able to recover a bit quicker. Now, to get the muscles working again.”
It’s an obvious move to reunite Iginla and Michael Cammalleri as a powerplay tandem. Looks like Blair Jones has drawn the enviable position as the man in the middle.
Although Iginla and Cammalleri didn’t skate as linemates during Saturday’s morning skate, they were together when the team practised powerplays. Jones was given the task of playing centre and setting up in front of the net.
“It’s a good opportunity. I’ve played on the powerplay before, so I’m not getting thrown into the fire. I’m excited,” said the centre acquired via trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning just over a week ago. “I’m sure I’ll be wearing a few of those pucks, getting hit by their one-timers, when I’m standing in front, but that’s part of the game.”