‘A night worth celebrating’: Kadri marks milestone, leads Flames past Ducks

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Nazem Kadri has plenty of wisdom to share with his Calgary Flames teammates. Nine-hundred games worth now.

And while he isn’t shy to pipe up and voice his opinion in the locker-room, his actions continue to speak loudest.

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Marking a significant milestone Friday, the last major games-played plateau before he achieves silver-stick status in the NHL, the 33-year-old pivot provided a goal, two assists and another follow-my-lead performance to spur the Flames to a 6-3 victory over the Ducks in Anaheim. Andrei Kuzmenko, with the hat-trick, was Calgary’s other standout.

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“Certainly a night worth celebrating,” Kadri told reporters at Honda Center.

Indeed, it was.

“I think about everyone that has helped me get to this point, and you can get a little emotional thinking about it,” Mr. 900 told Sportsnet during an intermission interview. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had, and I’m going to look to tally a few more on top of that.”

Kadri clearly has a lot left in the tank, and that’s a good thing since he is signed for another half-decade in Calgary.

Although the Flames are in the early stages of a youth movement, the recipe for a retool still calls for some proud veterans. It’s a crucial ingredient.

Kadri not only leads the team with 71 points this season, the second-best stat-line of his career. He’s also been an important role model for freshman forwards Martin Pospisil and Connor Zary and for the other rookies on the roster, too. Even in these mean-nothing games, Kadri is determined to be a driving force. In Friday’s second-star showing against the Ducks, he was exactly that.

Calgary Flames vs. Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames forward Nazem Kadri celebrates his goal against the Anaheim Ducks with defenceman MacKenzie Weegar (52) and forward Martin Pospisil at Honda Center in Anaheim on Friday, April 12, 2024. Photo by Kyusung Gong /The Associated Press

“You can’t really hold anybody to a standard that you’re not following yourself,” Kadri told reporters in Anaheim. “I think I’ve learned that throughout my years, and you have to be able to practise what you preach. I think that’s what most guys respect is guys that show up night in and night out. You earn the respect of your teammates and your coaches and the organization.”

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Along the way, Kadri has earned a ton of respect, a ton of admiration. He also earned a Stanley Cup ring in 2022 with the Colorado Avalanche.

“It really is the grind,” Kadri said, sharing 900 nights of know-how during an interview with Flames TV. “A lot of people don’t see the day-to-day things you have to go through in order to be ready for game time, whether it’s travel or getting mentally or physically prepared for a game. A lot ties into that. As a young guy, I think you’re a little bit oblivious at times in your first 100 games. You’re just kind of going with the flow and you don’t have to really prepare nearly as much because you’re young and your body feels like butter. It’s nice.

“As you get older, you really start to have an appreciation, really start to not take things for granted. And that’s where I’m at now.”

Kadri looked a little bit buttery on Friday’s first-period bury. He knifed into the attacking zone, faked like he might try to split a pair of defenders and instead sizzled a low shot past John Gibson.

He also assisted on a pair of power-play tallies by Kuzmenko, another guy who has benefited from riding shotgun for No. 91. On Kuzmenko’s second of the evening, Kadri had hauled the puck up the ice and then beelined for the crease. In fact, the Russian right-winger protested news of his hat-trick on the Sportsnet broadcast, saying that he believed Kadri had tipped his middle marker.

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“That’s not his first career hat-trick, is it?” Kadri asked in a post-game scrum. “I was going to have to fact-check that. If it is, I didn’t touch it.

“It’s his second? I don’t know, maybe I did.”

Calgary Flames vs. Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames forward Andrei Kuzmenko scores past Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson and defenceman Urho Vaakanainen at Honda Center in Anaheim on Friday, April 12, 2024. Photo by Kyusung Gong /The Associated Press


Two goals or three? “For me, doesn’t matter who scored,” Kuzmenko insisted on Sportsnet … Kuzmenko, 28, has racked up 14 points in his eight games on Kadri’s wing. He described the veteran centre as “very important for me because he gives me belief myself” … Flames coach Ryan Huska, who said “there was a lot to like” in Anaheim, was once again impressed with Kadri. “Three points in his 900th game, I think that’s a pretty cool thing,” Huska said. “We talked this morning about what he means to our group right now and how he’s taken a lot of pride in pulling people along with him, and that’s what I like to see about him. It’s nice to see him get rewarded for his 900th game with a nice offensive night, but for me it’s about the work that he’s been doing with Connor, when he was playing with him, and Pospisil and even Kuzy. Ever since we put them together, Kuzy has found his game. A lot of that credit goes to Kads.” … Andrew Mangiapane and Zary also tickled twine for the Flames in Anaheim, while goalie-of-the-future Dustin Wolf delivered 19 saves, none better than a right-pad robbery of Ross Johnston in the first … The Ducks made things interesting with three goals in a span of 4:07 in the third frame, with Sam Colangelo, Frank Vatrano and Olen Zellweger doing the honours.

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Connor Zary
Calgary Flames forward Connor Zary celebrates his goal against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center in Anaheim on Friday, April 12, 2024. Photo by Kyusung Gong /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


Anybody else noticing some hints of chemistry between Zary, who is currently auditioning at centre, and Jonathan Huberdeau? If not, you might want to check the replay of Zary’s game-winner against the Ducks, a close-range roof-job after a no-look feed from his new linemate … With an assist on Mangiapane’s short-handed strike, Flames forward Yegor Sharangovich matched the record for most points by a Belarusian player in an NHL season, with 58. He now shares that mark with his close friend and mentor, Mikhail Grabovski … Heart-and-soul sort Blake Coleman, needing just one notch to hit 30 for the first time in his career, missed a second consecutive contest due to an upper-body injury.” … The Flames have three games remaining in the 2023-24 slate. Next up is Sunday’s home clash with the soon-to-be-relocated Arizona Coyotes (6 p.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan) … After Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Abbotsford Canucks, it’s now confirmed that the Calgary Wranglers will be on the road for a best-of-three series in the opening round of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs.

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