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Markstrom aiming for weekend return to Flames’ crease

Jacob Markstrom Jacob Markstrom - The Canadian Press

Jacob Markstrom is on track to return to the Calgary Flames’ crease.

The goalie, who has missed the past four games due to injury, will resume skating on Monday. The team is targeting Saturday in Vancouver for his return.

There had been speculation that, given Markstrom’s health and the Flames’ slim chances at the postseason, he would be shut down for the year. But head coach Ryan Huska said Monday that the plan is for him to return the lineup in the coming days. 

“[He’s] skating today, and we’re expecting him to skate three more times this week coming up,” Huska said ahead of the Flames game versus the Washington Capitals. “Hopefully everything keeps progressing the right way and he’s in our net on the weekend.”

The Flames and Markstrom (along with rookie Connor Zary, who has missed the past two weeks because of an upper-body injury) will benefit from a rare four-day break between games. After Monday night, the team doesn’t play again until Saturday. 

“I don’t like to have a break like this,” Huska said. “Players might, but it gives people in that [injured] situation a little more time to get to where they need to be.”

Rookie goaltender Dustin Wolf has filled in admirably for Markstrom. Since his recall, the 2019 seventh-round pick has won twice, stopping 67 of 70 shots while picking up wins versus the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens

“He’s been great,” forward Andrew Mangiapane said. “Everyone knows the numbers and how good of a goalie he is in the minors…all the NHL guys here have a belief in him that he can do that in the NHL. There’s no reason why he can’t, right? I think the last two games, he’s played great and has been making big saves, key saves, at certain points in the game. We’re gonna need more of that from him.”

The Flames have won two in a row but remain eight points behind the Golden Knights for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. 

Forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who has found his game with 27 points in 30 games since the calendar flipped to 2024, referenced the group’s tough recent stretch after the trade deadline. The team lost three in a row and were outscored 18-5 against three Stanley Cup contenders in the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Colorado Avalanche

“It was a tough road trip to Florida and Carolina, but I think we came back, and I think we played more of our team game and more of a 60 [-minute effort], especially at home,” he said. “We beat a really good team in Vegas and we’ve got to take that. We know we have to win until the end of the year.”

The players insist that, despite the odds against them, they have not thrown in the towel.

“Guys in here aren’t really quitting on each other,” Mangiapane said. “Everyone knows the situation we’re in, but we still have the belief and still have to have the mindset that we can come out of this. There’s got to be a lot of things for it to happen, but I think guys are just taking it game by game. I feel like we’re still playing loose, still playing with energy, and still competing every game.”

Huberdeau emphasized the importance of leadership during this final stretch. 

“We know what we have to do,” he said. “We’re never gonna give up. I think it’s just who we are. In these kinds of situations, the older guys are huge. We have to come in and be ready to play every game and that’s what we’ll do right until the end. The young guys are gonna follow us and we’re ready to go. There’s not much margin for error. We need to win [most of the remaining] games.”