Nazem Kadri looks just fine in pre-season debut with Flames

Nazem Kadri looks just fine in pre-season debut with Flames

| September 29, 2022, 1: 02 AM

September 29, 2022, 1: 02 AM

CALGARY – The last game Nazem Kadri played in ended with him hoisting a large trophy over his head.

His debut with the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night ended with an assist and a warm, Darryl Sutter-like welcome.

“It looked like it was his first game in quite a while,” was all the Flames coach had to offer up.

Kadri certainly knew what he was getting into when he inked a seven-year, $49 million deal to join The Jolly Rancher and his merry men.

Reality is, Kadri had a few good chances, made several good exchanges with linemates Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman, anchored the power play and was welcomed by a fan base that certainly forgives him for rejecting a trade here years earlier.

Happy with a 4-0 win over a much younger Edmonton Oilers lineup, Kadri said it was good to “shake the cobwebs out,” as “no one is expected to be in mid-season form in September.”

A team-high four shots on goal, including a great backhand that was stopped in tight, had Kadri looking just fine for starters, as a good chunk of his 15 minutes included a power-play assignment that had him playing in the high slot.

“I’ve played there for a while in that middle bumper spot, so I know how to play it pretty well,” said Kadri.

“Its’ strategic to be effective in there but I’ve got great players around me and all I’ve got to do is get open and they seem to find me.”

Part of his assimilation will include playing in an air-tight system that puts a premium on being responsible at both ends of the ice — something Kadri and the Flames have done well in both home pre-season tilts, shutting out the opposition in both.

On Wednesday, Jacob Markstrom made his first start since the nightmarish series against Edmonton last spring, blanking the same Oilers that torched him through five playoff games.

The Vezina Trophy finalist stopped all 12 shots he faced before giving way to Dustin Wolf for a convincing win that saw all three of the Flames’ shiny new stars find the scoresheet, including MacKenzie Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau

“I didn’t even realize it, but I’m happy all the new guys could contribute,” said Weegar, who took a pass from Kadri late in the third, skated in from the point and wired a rocket past Stuart Skinner.

“It’s a new team, so even when you get one in exhibition it’s a good feeling.”

Sutter said Weeger continues to feel his way through his new environment.

“I think he’s a really good student of the game, a really coachable player and he’s learning how we play,” said Sutter.

“Good player. He’s making strides.”

Weegar’s goal prompted the playing of Mark Morrison’s ‘Return of the Mack,’ followed by chants of “Weegar, Weegar” by a group in the crowd.

Huberdeau’s goal came into an empty net, after first making a sick move on Jason Demers.

A couple spin-o-rama passes by Huberdeau certainly gave the crowd a sense of the creativity to expect this season from the man who led the league last year in helpers.

STONE COLD SCORERS

The first two goal scorers in Wednesday’s game also happen to be the Flames’ leading goal scorers this pre-season.

Both Michael Stone and Brett Sutter have two goals in two games, yet neither is being counted on to challenge for an opening-night spot with the big club.

Stone, who had the overtime winner in Monday’s split squad game in Vancouver, is a fan favourite for his ability to continually find a way to contribute whenever he’s called upon as the team’s seventh defenceman.

This year’s invite as a PTO surprised some, as the team has 10 blue liners on one-way deals. He’s proven repeatedly he’s good enough to play his way into a contract, but it’s a crowded blue line already.

The right-handed Stone is behind Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev and Oliver Kylington on the right side, not to mention Nicolas Meloche, who is likely to start the season on the third pairing unless Kylington (personal reasons) returns to camp soon.

Yet, all Stone does is keep impressing.

On Wednesday he had a goal, an assist, four shots on goal and was plus-2 playing alongside Ilya Solovyov.

“This is not a new position for me, so I’m just here playing like I know,” he shrugged.

Sutter, who was originally drafted by the Flames in 2005, is 35 and is touted to be sent down to continue a run of more than 1,000 AHL games as a Wrangler, as early as Monday.

The son of coach Darryl, Brett tells a funny story about returning for physicals last week, a mere 12 years after last being with the organization.

“It was pretty funny during fitness testing that all the people doing fitness testing pulled up my last score so they could try to get a read on what you’ve been doing,” chuckled Sutter.

“They’re like, do you still push the same numbers as 2010?

“I’m like, ‘no chance, are you kidding me? That was a long time ago.’”

LINEUP

Forwards
Huberdeau-Lindholm-Toffoli
Backlund-Kadri-Coleman
Lucic-Rooney-Lewis
Sutter-Bishop-McLain

Defence
Hanifin-Andersson
Zadorov-Weegar
Solovyov-Stone

Goalies
Markstrom
Wolf

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