CALGARY — A torn labrum and separated shoulder sound every bit as painful as the reality of what Chris Tanev went through when last we saw him.
Despite the extensive damage done in Game 6 against Dallas, the 32-year-old defenceman valiantly returned for the final three games against Edmonton with the help of a pain-management protocol aimed at trying to limit the agony he was sure to endure.
“They freeze as much as they can, but when your shoulder is going in and out a lot, sometimes you feel it and sometimes you don’t,” revealed Tanev, who knew he’d be targeted unmercifully by the Oilers.
“I think they knew, but it is what it is.
“They can come at me all they want. I’m on the ice, so I’m fair game. If people want to hit me that’s fine. It’s my decision to be out there.
“It was (popping out) a couple times, but it’s part of hockey.”
Subsequent surgery tabbed Tanev as being out for four to six months, putting his return for opening night in question.
Tanev made his pre-season debut Monday night with an exclamation, scoring against visiting Seattle in the first period as part of a test he passed with flying colours.
“I got some good looks, guys gave me great passes and Moses parted the seas a couple times,” said Tanev whose point blast that beat Martin Jones was one of his three shots on the night.
“I bumped around a little bit, and it was good to feel those bumps.
“I think it just reinforced how everyone thought I was feeling and what I anticipated would happen, so give credit to the doctors, medical staff and trainers for getting me to be able to play tonight. I can’t thank them enough.”
His timely return, which he admitted had him a tad nervous, speaks to just how motivated and dedicated he is as a leader of the Flames.
“Anyone you will talk to who has had shoulder surgery knows for four or five weeks it’s not fun, especially if you are a stomach sleeper,” said Tanev, who played almost 20 minutes in a 4-1 win that also saw goals from Michael Stone, Noah Hanifin and Blake Coleman.
“Just getting used to being in a sling and not moving much is tough, especially someone like me. I’m usually on the go and right back into my workouts fairly quickly after the season.
“It was a lot of rehab, but it’s worth it.
“As soon as I was able to, I was trying to lift and work out as hard as I could.”
It showed, as Tanev appeared as poised and in control as he was all last season when he spearheaded a Flames blue line bunch that was third in goals against.
Expectations are even higher for the sextet this year, which is why all eyes are on who will play together.
Weegar, who ran the powerplay Monday, and Tanev are widely expected to start the season together as the club’s top shut-down pairing.
“Good skater, moves the puck well, (Weegar's) going to fit in easily with our style,” said Tanev, who has skated with the club since camp opening, but was purposely sheltered from playing until Monday by the coach.
“Defends well, plays both sides of the ice, he can get up and down the ice which is what everyone on the team can do, and I think he’s just going to add another element to us and hopefully elevate us as a six again.”
FORWARD PAIRS TAKING SHAPE
The Flames’ win marked the pre-season debut of Andrew Mangiapane, who got his first chance to start building chemistry with his likely linemate Nazem Kadri. The two were dangerous on several occasions, which included a two-line stretch pass that sent Mangiapane in alone for a great chance.
While Sutter suggested the only pairing set in stone is Mikael Backlund with Coleman, you can bet Jonathan Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm will remain largely together, as will Kadri/Mangiapane.
SUTTER HAS HIGH PRAISE FOR HUBERDEAU
Sutter caused some ripples again Monday morning with what was widely considered another swipe at a recently departed Flame.
This time Johnny Gaudreau seemed to be the target.
“Jonathan Huberdeau is probably the best passer this team has had, maybe ever,” said Sutter, pointing out his linemates better bear down more when No. 10 has the puck.
Gaudreau, by the way, became a father this week, with wife Meredith and him announcing the arrival of daughter Noa.
FLAMES GOALIES STAY HOT
The Flames goaltending continues to dominate this fall, with Jacob Markstrom taking centre stage for his second start, making 21 saves for the win. He allowed his first goal of the pre-season early in the third when Matty Beniers snapped a one-timer under Markstrom’s glove on the power play.
All three Flames goalies remaining in camp have save percentages over .945.
The PTO watch continued Monday, with Stone all but cinching a contract of some sort with his third goal of the pre-season — another clapper — to lead the team.
Cody Eakin continued his steady play throughout camp, while Sonny Milano’s hopes are fading, as he was unproductive on the third line.
NEW KID IN TOWN
While Flames observers kept a loose eye on whether AHL-bound Matthew Phillips would be claimed on waivers Monday, they were surprised to see the Flames snagged former Penguins winger Radim Zohorna off waivers.
The towering 26-year-old Czech is six-foot-six, 220 pounds and has bounced between the AHL and Pittsburgh the last two seasons.
In the AHL he had 12 goals and 21 points in 39 games last year, and was a respectable plus-12 in 17 games with the Pens.
Who better to ask about him than Penguins president Brian Burke.
“He’s a great kid, he works very hard and is very coachable,” said Burke of the lad who comes with a $750,000 cap hit.
“He was having a good training camp. He lost six or eight pounds to try to get a little quicker and it really showed up.
“He’s got great hockey instincts, skates well and is a nice young man. We would have preferred to keep him, but we wish him well. I think it’s a good pickup for them.”
Anyone interested in eventually seeing the 675-pound Czech Mates Line of Zohorna (6’6), Adam Klapka (6’8) and Adam Ruzicka (6’4)?