Calgary – A two-handed stick hit across the crossbar is always a nice indication that the temperature is getting hot.
So heated words and shaking matches between teammates that require separation from the cold head.
This was the scene in Flemish practice on Friday, after the team’s first two-game loss in more than two months.
The values around here are clearly improved, almost as frustratingly late as in a skate at WinSport Arena where curious spectators were as curious as the media by an aggressive exchange between Blake Coleman and Eric Goodbronson.
As part of a half-court-type battle drill, pitting four against four in the nearby quarters, Coleman pushed Goodbranson to the last board in such a way that the Burley blue-liner did not please, slipping away at how dangerous the impact could be.
He retaliated with a push that, due to the contrast in size, flattened Coleman.
Goodbronson then smashed his stick in two with the iron before Coleman and Coleman pushed each other, continuing their animated exchange.
Noah Hanifin and a few others intervened, as coach Daryl Sutter stood nearby, without any reaction, but was clearly okay with the old school clash.
“It’s good, it’s a communication game,” Sutter said, shrugging his shoulders. “We need more people like that.
“The two guys out there hitting each other are two bangers. We need some guys who are fighting on the pillow to do something about it.”
Vintage Sutter, a nearby punch-up punctuation with a punchline.
For a coach with unparalleled intensity and the demands of his players, this is the moment he can expect from a pair of veterans like them.
Recognizing this time of year requires increased intensity and passion to motivate his club, he couldn’t ask for more.
“It happened … big deal,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
He smiled when asked if he was involved in the practice battle as a player of the 80s.
“Probably,” he said before correcting himself. “Probably not, everyone was.
“These exercises are easier than what we did then. The boys couldn’t wait to do it. There was always competition in your own team. That’s what you want. Defender / forward, line / line, center / center.”
“Animals of habit, so if you practice it, there’s a chance you’ll do it in a game.”
Such frustration was evident in Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings when Milan returned to the bench at the end of another particularly disappointing period for Lucic Flames.
After falling 1-0 after failing to break through the neutral zone barrier set by the Kings, Lucic repeatedly hit his stick on the top of the board as he entered through the gate.
Turning his snarl towards his teammates, he shared some specific thoughts with a group that has won just four of his last nine outings.
It’s no surprise to hear on Friday that Lucius supported a brief, internal conflict between Coleman and Goodbronson.
“It’s a good thing,” he said. “Practice as you play. If you’re intense in practice, you’re intense in games.
“April is usually full of flowers and overtime,” Sutter joked on Friday.
It’s also about responding appropriately to the pressures and demands of a rigorous-checking game that he warns is expanding.
Of late, he was warm to the reaction of his club.
“I think it’s pretty normal – a lot of what I thought was because a lot of them didn’t go through it,” he said. “It’s not good enough to be able to resist reminding people forever.
“There are some who know about it and some who don’t. It’s important as a group that they pull each other.
“It goes back to the fact that we’re trying to change the culture here, and it’s not so easy to tell you the truth. I’ve been working on it for a year now through the summer, and you still have some people. It’s hard.”
Injury note: Oliver Killington and Shawn Monahan missed practice on Friday.
Defender Kings left the game on Thursday in the third period before heading on board with a high stick from forward Rasmus Cooper.
As a player who missed some time last month after a similarly awkward injury on the boards, no one would be surprised if he missed some time to recover.
Michael Stone replaced Killington with Chris Tanev in the second pairing and the team could very well call Connor Mackie from Stockton as the team’s seventh defender on Saturday against the St. Louis tour.