The life of a 'Black Ace' isn't a glamorous one. But that doesn't mean it can't be fun.
The Calgary Flames' healthy scratches -- defencemen Steve Montador and Mike Commodore and forwards Lynn Loyns and Martin Sonnenberg -- are making the most of their post-season opportunities as reserve players, the aces in the team's sleeve.
They're the last to leave the ice, getting in extra work after practice. They'll often head straight to the weight room to ensure they're in top shape should they get the call from coach Darryl Sutter.
"We work out together, ride the bike together," Montador said. "We help push each other to get better."
Whenever a small group spends so much time together, bonds begin to develop.
"You start to have some camaraderie and there's some inside jokes," Montador said.
Surely no one is making fun of Commodore's hairdo -- a shiny red afro he hasn't cut since training camp.
"No, I've never made a joke about Sideshow Bob," Montador deadpans, loud enough for Commodore to hear.
Commodore laughs it off. He's been in this situation before as a member of the 2001 New Jersey Devils, who went to the Cup finals.
"We had about seven guys (on the Black Aces) in New Jersey but it's a way better setup here," Commodore said. "We're with the team, we're travelling, we feel like we're part of it and it's a lot more enjoyable.
The Flames foursome keep busy at home and on the road.
"Marty and I will have lunch and on the road, we'll get together and watch TV in the treatment room at the hotel," Commodore said. "On game days, when guys are having a nap, I don't want to come in and wake my roommate up. So we'll go play cards or something."
But while they're playing poker or video games, or going out to dinner or a movie, the players are dreaming about one thing.
Getting back in the lineup.
"You work hard on the ice, take care of yourself off the ice and be ready," Commodore said. "The playoffs are two months long and a lot of things can happen. If ... we're called upon for whatever reason, we have to make sure we're in shape and ready to go."
Sonnenberg also has experience as a Black Ace. He played seven of Pittsburgh's 13 playoff games as a rookie in 1999 but didn't see any action the following year.
"The guys are going hard every game so the four of us skating after practice have to be in top shape so that we're ready," the 26-year-old said.
For Loyns, acquired from San Jose in early January, it's all about soaking up the playoff atmosphere and watching how the veterans prepare themselves.
"I'm still pretty young so it's a learning experience," the 23-year-old said. "I'm going to keep my eyes open and see what it takes.
So, the Black Aces will continue to skate after everyone else has left the ice, to work out in isolation and to play hand after hand of poker in hopes they'll eventually draw that lucky card and slip into the lineup.
Foursome always ready to go
SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun
, Last Updated: 3:39 PM ET