If the Calgary Flames have learned anything during the last couple of weeks, it’s to adjust on the fly. That goes for the whole pandemic, really.
The NHL’s most rampant Omicron outbreak was right here in Calgary, where the Flames saw all but three roster players go through COVID protocol in rapid succession. They had more than 30 people in the organization affected, including the coaching staff and support. And that doesn’t include any family or friends who might have contracted the most transmissible variant yet.
But as of Monday’s practice, the gang was back together again. Maybe healthier than ever in the regular season. Backup goalie Dan Vladar rejoined the fold and only Tyler Pitlick – a non-COVID, injury-related absence – was unable to participate.
“We’re probably healthier than we’ve been at any time since the last exhibition game,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said Monday on a Zoom with local media following the team’s second practice since the layoff.
Although a few players so far have said they felt flu-like symptoms for a day or two, Sutter says the players are feeling no ill effects from it now. That includes himself. He soft-credited the vaccines, suggesting the Flames are all double and some triple vaxxed.
“I don’t think (the virus has) affected any of us. I think it’s just the time off,” he said. “Even though some guys have been skating a little bit, it’s still different when you’re getting contact. That’s why you get through the next two or three days. You’re looking for good execution and play at a pace. The same things you say late in training camp, that’s what we’re saying now. But overall, I think the guys look fresh and have some energy in their practice, so that’s good.”
Calgary Flames game in Seattle still up in the air
Game day could come as early as Thursday in Seattle. The Kraken and former Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano were supposed to visit last week. But that game was one of seven that have been postponed since their last game on Dec. 11.
Not long after that loss to the Boston Bruins, the Flames had three positive tests. Then another four the following day, then seven more the next. A few more trickled in over the next few and only Matthew Tkachuk, Blake Coleman and Michael Stone escaped Omicron’s clutches.
“We don’t even know when our next game is, whether we’re playing on the 30th or not,” Tkachuk said Monday. “We’re supposed to, but we’ve come to realize everything changes day by day.”
Yes, the only consistent in the month of December has been the constant inconsistency.
“It’s a very fluid situation going on with the league right now,” said Flames defenceman Chris Tanev. “We just have to be ready to play when we’re called upon and embrace the change. I mean, there are going to be changes to schedule, changes to all that. You have roll with the punches and be prepared.”
NHL’s COVID protocol list continues to refresh
Dozens of new names across the NHL have been added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol the past couple of days. Notable starting goaltenders like Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning), Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers), Marc-Andre Fleury (Chicago Blackhawks) and Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh Penguins).
The Montreal Canadiens alone saw seven players test positive Monday.
“Obviously, you see new updates with other teams now and instead of all this stuff happening to us, it’s happening to a couple of other teams. That’s just the way it’s probably going to be for the next little bit. You can’t really plan for it,” said Tkachuk. “Now, it seems like it’ll be maybe other teams that will affect some more stuff rather than us.
“We have a full team back now and with most of the guys testing positive, hopefully we are behind that and we can get playing. Because that’s what we definitely all want. It’s only been two weeks and a day, but it feels way, way longer than that, I can tell you that. So hopefully we can get back sooner rather than later.