Calgary Flames enjoying break in hectic schedule

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It’s not quite the calm before the storm.

It’s more like the Calgary Flames got through one storm and can see the next one coming.

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But for now, they’re enjoying the relative peace and quiet that the NHL schedule makers have served up this week at the Saddledome.

The Flames came off their three-day Christmas holiday and get right back into action Wednesday night against the Seattle Kraken.

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They’ll then have three days before they take the ice again for a New Year’s Eve home date with the Philadelphia Flyers.

It’s a light schedule. It just happens to be sandwiched in between two lethal, busy stretches.

“Yeah, it’s the old Calgary Flames schedule, right? We usually get the good schedule,” said Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “It’s an interesting one, that’s for sure. We just focus on tonight and take it from there.

“It was nice to have a few days off. Tough travel, so it was nice to have a few days to spend time with family and friends and that kind of stuff. Now, we have to flip the switch.”

The Flames certainly deserved a little breather. Between Nov. 14 and Dec. 23, they played 20 games in 39 days. Half of those games were on the road, with games in every single NHL time zone.

And January is going to be nearly as hard. The schedule-makers didn’t make life easy for the Flames.

Between Jan. 2 and the start of the Flames’ all-star break on the 27th of the month, the Flames will play 13 games in 26 days.

Fortunately, there’s a lengthy six-game homestand that starts Jan. 9, but it’s still going to be a grind.

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Mikael Backlund
Calgary Flames captain Mikael Backlund. Leah Hennel/Getty Images file

So again, a lighter week over the holiday season is definitely being welcomed around the Saddledome, although Flames captain Mikael Backlund said the group was also eager to get going again.

“We’re all excited to be back,” Backlund said. “We had a good break but I like playing right away, without a practice day. It’s nice to get into it right away. … We’ll have some days in between to work on things.”

It’s probably fair to say that the next five weeks will define the Flames’ 2023-24 season and, given the uncertainty surrounding soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev, it could determine the direction GM Craig Conroy chooses to take the organization.

But there’s no reason to believe the tough upcoming schedule will break the Flames. Despite the challenges presented by their hectic November and December, they managed to go 10-7-3 in their 20 games prior to Wednesday’s matchup with the Kraken.

“I think our schedule the last two weeks of November and the start of December was about as hard as you’re going to get, so I think we’re prepared for it,” said Flames defenceman Tanev. “We play (Wednesday) and then have a few days and then it’s basically every other day until the all-star break.

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“It’s time for us to take the next step as a team and try to string a few together.”

Sam Honzek coming through at world juniors

Flames fans watching the IIHF World Junior Championships are probably starting to get pretty excited about Sam Honzek.

The 19-year-old scored his second game-winner in as many days on Wednesday morning, helping lift Slovakia to a 3-0 win over Switzerland.

Honzek, selected in the first round, 16th overall of the 2023 NHL Draft by the Flames, is spending the season with the Vancouver Giants but is expected to play a big role for Slovakia at this year’s world juniors.

Through the first two games of the tournament, he’s certainly risen to the occasion, is plus-four, scoring twice and adding an assist while helping the Slovakian team go 2-0 for the first time at the tournament since 2002.

Calgary Wranglers on homestand

Hockey fans have a golden opportunity to get a close look at the Calgary Wranglers over the next couple of weeks.

Starting with Thursday’s matchup against the Abbotsford Canucks (7 p.m.), the Wranglers play eight-straight home games at the Saddledome, wrapping up with a two-game set against the Ontario Reign on Jan. 11 and 12.

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