The Calgary Flames are taking a patient approach with future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, who will determine if his season debut comes in Saturday’s home contest against the Winnipeg Jets. The Flames signed the 45-year-old forward to a one-year contract Wednesday, hours before opening the season with a 3-0 loss to Edmonton, and after his first practice Thursday Jagr told reporters he hopes to be ready soon.
“It’s a challenge,” said Jagr, who ranks second in NHL history in points (1,914) and third in goals (765). “That’s why I go day by day. Hopefully tomorrow I feel better.” The Flames and Jets look to feel better after disappointing opening-night performances. Calgary goaltender Mike Smith was peppered by 44 shots on goal as the Flames were clearly outplayed against the Oilers. Winnipeg was pounded 7-2 by Toronto on Wednesday as new No. 1 goaltender Steve Mason allowed five goals on 20 shots while the Jets finished 0-for-8 on the power play. “This franchise doesn’t move forward until it can defend,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice told the media Thursday. “You’re not winning a thing until you’ve got a real good comfort level to defend.”
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ABOUT THE JETS (0-1-0): Winnipeg displayed its potent offense throughout the preseason – tallying 13 power-play goals – but could not capitalize on three early man-advantage opportunities Wednesday. Mason’s debut was far from great as he surrendered a trio of Toronto goals in a 2:38 span late in the first period, giving way to Connor Hellebuyck early in the third period. Centers Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault scored in the final period for the Jets, who finished with 37 shots on goal but gave up two power-play tallies.
ABOUT THE FLAMES (0-1-0): Smith did all he could in the opener, allowing two goals to Connor McDavid, who completed his hat trick with an empty-netter, but keeping the game at 1-0 until the final 12 minutes. Calgary was beaten in the face-off circle 34-29, outhit 31-29 and had only one power-play opportunity. Forward Johnny Gaudreau, who led the Flames with 61 points last season, did not attempt a shot on goal, while leading goal scorer Sean Monahan (27 goals a season ago) misfired on his four attempts.
1. Winnipeg shuffled its top two forward lines midway through Wednesday’s game, and ran the same groupings Thursday as Perreault skated with Bryan Little and Patrik Laine, and Scheifele centered Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler.
2. Smith did not practice Thursday in what coach Glen Gulutzan deemed a maintenance day, but the rest of the Flames went through an up-tempo 45-minute workout.
3. Calgary won two of three meetings with Winnipeg last season, posting a 6-2 victory in the lone encounter in Calgary behind two goals and an assist from D Dougie Hamilton.
PREDICTION: Flames 4, Jets 3