Sutter returns to Calgary as Kings face Flames
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Darryl Sutter Reunion Tour heads towards its third and final date, a sold out Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary where the former coach and GM will appear publicly for the first time on Saturday since resigning as the Flames' General Manager on Dec. 28, 2010.
Reviews from previous tour stops in San Jose and Chicago were mostly positive, highlighted by a 2-0 win at the United Center on Dec. 28 punctuated by a 38-save performance from All-Star goaltender Jonathan Quick. Sutter coached the Blackhawks from 1992-95 and the Sharks from 1997-2003.
If you're looking for any wistful fondness or extended recollection on his time spent in the Calgary organization, or if there's been any extra consideration towards coaching against his brother, Brent, not much has been divulged. The straightforward bench boss appears to have "moved past it," as he said Friday morning from the team's practice facility in El Segundo.
"I mean every coach that's coached a long time usually coaches three or four places. I've coached in Chicago, San Jose and Calgary, and so I've been lucky in the last two weeks to be at all those places," Sutter said. "That's the way I look at it. I think you guys make way too much of it, right? It's like if you interviewed every player in the room that played somewhere before, I mean you'd have — if it wasn't for the truth, you'd get in the way of a good story, right?"
Center Mike Richards was consulted about the hoopla surrounding Saturday's game — which should be heightened due to the Flames' acquisition of Michael Cammalleri from Montreal on Thursday — and whether or not there's a little bit extra in the tank when facing a familiar foe.
"You always want to win when you go back to the places, I know when I went back to Philadelphia, I wanted to win, and I'm sure he feels the same way," Richards said. "He's a very emotional, passionate guy, and I think we feed off his energy, so I'm sure he'll be fired up for that."
More important for the Kings is winning a conference battle against a team they're jockeying for position against in the tightly packed gut of the Western Conference standings. After Thursday's action, Los Angeles was tied for seventh in the conference with 50 points, with Calgary sitting three points behind in a tie for 11th place. The Kings have a game in hand on the Flames; Saturday's game will mark the first of four meetings between the teams this year.
"It's good to go to Canada," Sutter said. "Hey, we're playing against, bottom line, a team that's really close to us in the standings. Just like [Thursday] night [against Dallas]. I don't know what the hell the difference is."
Saturday's game also presents a challenge for a Los Angeles team that has won just two of its last 18 games in Calgary, dating back to the 2001-02 season. The Kings' 62 road losses to the Flames are the most against any opponent.
"I don't look at it like that," Sutter said. "Right now Calgary's won — I think they've won 10 in a row in their own building. So I assume a lot of teams have had trouble in their building. I don't look at it like that at all. I look at where we're at right now. And that would be today and tomorrow. What is history? They've probably got six players new over there, and we've got six players new. I think the biggest challenge for us is to look at the individual challenges. You've got a star goaltender on their side, and you've got one here that's trying to become one, so I think that's a good challenge."
While the conversation also drifted towards the mild weather expected in Alberta — the high in Calgary on Saturday is expected to approach 40 degrees, followed by a more appropriate chilly Sunday in Edmonton — Sutter didn't appear to be too thrilled about playing a game that won't begin until after 8 p.m. Saturday followed by a 6 p.m. start at Rexall Place on Sunday, with travel in between.
"That's not a very good schedule," Sutter said. "I mean I understand eight o'clock because of Hockey Night [in Canada], but I don't understand six o'clock the next day. I mean, they want the best performances out of your players. We'll be another middle of the night team again."
They'll be a middle of the night team that looks to be counting on the services of Anze Kopitar, who didn't return to the ice after Brendan Morrow's heavy third period shoulder-to-shoulder check sent the center hard into the boards. Kopitar appeared to be not much worse for the wear when speaking to reporters Friday, and Sutter intimated that his star center would have practiced had the team taken to the ice before boarding their charter flight north on Friday.
"It appears he's going to live. Going to pull through," Sutter said with a smile.