Zac Rinaldo hopes to spark listless and injury riddled Flames

Veteran Zac Rinaldo is raring to make his Calgary Flames debut, and says he'll bring energy, physical play, simple and smart hockey to the lineup, hoping it will spark others to do the same.

Sean Monahan has been demoted to the second line, Mikael Backlund will take his place and the injuries are mounting for a Calgary Flames team that’s scoreless in two and winless in four.

Travis Hamonic’s day-to-day ailment makes him the latest Flame to succumb to injury, joining Sam Bennett (week-to-week) and T.J. Brodie, who is still undergoing tests following his recent on-ice collapse.

Yet, in the bowels of a snowed-in Saddledome on Tuesday stood a fourth-line mucker as the centre of attention.

In search of goals, increased engagement and, ultimately, a win, the Flames surprised many by summoning veteran grinder Zac Rinaldo from Stockton.

There were plenty of options, as the Heat are off to a blazing start.

But Rinaldo fit the bill for what the Flames felt they need.

No, he’s not being counted on to add to lowly goal totals that have seen the Flames score just three times in their last four outings.

What he is here to do (besides entertain with his fascinating interviews) is to help inject a heartbeat into a team devoid of spark.

“Here to be myself,” said Rinaldo, who will draw in against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

“Bring energy. Physical play, simple, smart hockey and play every shift like it’s my last. That’s just what I do.”

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He insists it’s a mantra that has been ingrained in him since age eight.

“I think that’s what made me the player and person I am today,” said the 29-year-old winger, who had seven assists and no fights in 14 AHL games.

“Some games I’m playing eight minutes and sometimes 10, and I have no idea if it’s going to be my last.”

It sure looked like he had played his last NHL shift this summer until the Flames invited him to camp on a PTO, which he translated into a two-way contract based on his speed and grit.

Tuesday they’ll need it to try snapping a season-high losing skid by slaying the dragon that ousted the Flames in five last spring.

“I think if this team sees myself out there forechecking, banging bodies and trying to score and trying to make plays and keeping it simple and doing the right thing and creating energy, I think that might open some guys’ eyes who say, ‘shoot, this guy is working his ass off for us and we’ve got to do the same thing for him because he’s doing it for us,” said Rinaldo.

“It may spark something. Scoring and winning is contagious. It’s going to start tonight with the first shift and we’ll roll it over.”

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Known more for his suspensions than anything else in his 10-year pro career, Rinaldo insists he’s tried to stay grounded since receiving the call-up Monday.

“I don’t get a rush,” he said of the type of promotion he’s been accustomed to over the years.

“I have to stay calm and collected and I have to be a professional because if I get too high I’ll go out and hit someone and get a suspension. That’s what I’ve witnessed in the past. So I have to stay even keel.”

And punish the opposition with an eye on providing a hunger this team seems to be so sorely lacking en route to a pedestrian, 10-10-3 record.

Will it also include a fight, as was so desperately in order in Vegas on Sunday when Milan Lucic allowed Ryan Reaves to run all over his teammates?

“I’ve never been one to say, ‘I need to fight tonight,’” said the owner of 719 penalty minutes in 351 NHL games.

“It’s not me. If I hit someone and someone comes after me I have to protect myself. I play hockey. Hockey is fighting and fighting is hockey – it’s part of the game – it happens.”

A Rinaldo interview wouldn’t be the same without some sort of quirky anecdote like the one he shared about the loft he, Alan Quine and Dillon Dube share in Stockton.

Close friends who have taken turns being recalled this season, he was asked if Quine’s recent demotion found him returning to their place with dishes piled up.

“We don’t even have dishes, man,” he said.

“I have a plate, Dubes has a plate and Q doesn’t even have a plate. So you can’t even pile up dishes because there’s one plate each. Q was there for, like, five nights so there was not even time for him to have one.”

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Can Quine borrow his?

“He’s got to ask,” he smiled.

“As long as he cleans it. There’s food there for him and tons of towels.”

Dube explained a dish isn’t Quine’s only issue.

“Me and (Rinaldo) are the only ones with cutlery,” laughed Dube, explaining the colour-coded dish system they have in place.

“(Quine) better not take my plate when he’s back.”

Dube was only summoned by the Flames on Sunday to take Bennett’s place in the 6-0 thrashing by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Taber, Alta., native Brandon Davidson will draw in for Hamonic, who left the Vegas game early on.

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