PHILADELPHIA — These were the words that Calgary Flames fans were hoping to hear …
“I felt good,” reported goaltender David Rittich after Friday’s practice at Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia. “So I’m ready to go.”
Flames head coach Bill Peters wasn’t making any puck-stopping proclamations until a word with the medical staff, but it seems like a safe bet that Rittich will be between the pipes for Saturday’s matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers in the City of Brotherly Love (11 a.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).
One of the NHL’s first-half surprise stories, Rittich has missed the past two contests due to a lower-body injury.
In his absence, Mike Smith was in Calgary’s crease for both nights of a back-to-back set — a 5-3 victory over the Red Wings in Detroit, followed by Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the host Boston Bruins.
Smith deserves some of the blame for the defeat in Beantown after allowing the would-be game-winner to squirt through his five-hole. After a 21-save showing, he characterized that backhander by Jake DeBrusk as one of two goals that he would like back.
That’s too many.
So if ‘Big Save Dave’ is ready, and he says he is, you should expect to see him Saturday.
“The pain wasn’t great. It didn’t let me in,” Rittich said of his injury. “We figured out that it’s going to be better to take some days off and be better prepared for next games.”
Rittich has emerged as the Flames’ go-to goalie thanks to both his stellar stats — a 13-4-2 record, a 2.39 goals-against average and .920 save percentage — and Smith’s struggles.
As soon the 26-year-old Rittich returns to action, third-stringer Jon Gillies will be dispatched to rejoin the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat. Gillies dressed as Calgary’s backup in both Detroit and Boston.
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