Calgary Flames goalkeeper Dan Vladar solid in pre-season loss to Oilers

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EDMONTON — Dan Vladar spent the off-season diving into a list of things he should have done by Calgary Flames goalkeeping coach Jason LaBarbera.

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He did not want to reveal what that agenda entailed.

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“Top Secret List,” said the Flames’ second-string goalkeeper with a curious smile. “I was working on that, so that was my focus this summer.”

With all the silence we may never know, but perhaps ‘the list’ has given the lanky keeper the confidence of the year early on.

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Vladar certainly was solid in Friday night’s NHL pre-season game against the Edmonton Oilers, a game that ended 2-1 in favor of the home side at Rogers Place.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get the ‘W’,” said Vladar. “Because we played well, you know, against their full lineup. Guys did a really good job for me. I didn’t have a lot of tips or screens or anything like that.”

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At least not until the third period, when the Oilers’ Brett Kulak broke a protracted deadlock with a puck that somehow found its way past Vladar.

Until then, with the Oilers icing on the cake of what are expected to be their regular-season starters, the visiting goalkeeper has been on hand to anchor a game Flames lineup that only had a handful of veterans.

“Vladdy played great behind us all night,” said pesky Flames winger Mitch McLain. “We needed it, because they played a big lineup.”

Tested early, the Czech goalkeeper made three or four massive saves over Leon Draisaitl – twice – and Zach Hyman – twice – on a dominant Oilers powerplay, with Juuso Valimaki in the penalty area for holding. But Draisaitl defeated Vladar on his next chance and scored after the keeper was lazy to play a puck that dribbled his way. The Oilers sniper took a rebound that should never have happened and easily deposited it behind the Flames netminder for the first goal of the game at 11:22 of the first period. It was a play that Vladar would like to have back.

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A lazy play by the Oilers led to the tying run before the end of the opening frame. But credit Cody Eakin, inventor of Flames, for his quick thinking to knock a puck off an Oilers defender’s stick behind the net, sending the puck forward for Dillon Dube, who quickly put the puck in. the net deposited behind the Oilers backstop, Jack Campbell.

Vladar then came right back with a nice save from Warren Foegele on a 2-on-1 with Ryan McLeod, quickly getting the trail down and out to take out a sneaky rebound attempt.

The Flames goalkeeper looked good to start the second period as well, stopping Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a tight rebound. A few minutes later, he also stopped Evander Kane and Connor McDavid’s hot shots doing his usual buzz at the enemy’s end. More buzz from the Oilers for the Flames goalkeeper during a subsequent power play – with McLain in the penalty area – kept Vladar on his toes further. And late in the second, he stopped Hyman from entering the slot on his own.

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In fact, the only way the Oilers could beat Vladar was a point shot that he couldn’t see. Kulak beat him through traffic, with the rubber perhaps diverting a body – or two – on its way past the keeper.

“I could have stopped that first one — it could have been a different story,” Vladar said. “We were close – we had some chances at the end.”

Otherwise, it was a statement from Vladar – who faced nearly 40 shots – to prove that he is the right man behind starter Jacob Markstrom, even though rookie Dustin Wolf is considered the potential goalkeeper of the club’s future.

“Our goalkeeping is usually pretty good,” said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. “Goaltending is clearly our strongest position, organisationally. The three of them did an excellent (training camp).”

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Dressed in three pre-season games, Vladar helped shut out the Vancouver Canucks with Oscar Dansk and conceded two goals to the Seattle Kraken over 60 minutes into Friday night’s effort.

“Of course I know who I’m in the locker room with, right?” said Vladimir. “So for me it’s still learning – just wanting to get better and better and learn from Marky. Every time I get a call, I’m just doing my best.

“I would like to be a number 1. But sometimes you have to look in the mirror. You look at Marky’s history, and it wasn’t like he jumped into the NHL and was #1 right away. So I think everyone is ready, of course, and this is for me. I’m super grateful to have Marky in the locker room and able to talk to him. He clearly has a lot more experience than me.”

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With Elias Lindholm not on the trip to Edmonton, Flames hopeful Adam Ruzicka scored a plum assignment as center between Jonathan Huberdeau and Tyler Toffoli. Sutter praised Ruzicka’s effort during the off-season. “He’s had a really good summer,” Sutter said. ‘He now has a man’s body that wasn’t there before. That was lifestyle, diet, training… all that. He has made great strides in all three areas. Now, it’s in progress. So this is when you get that chance.” … Sutter also praised his group that night, saying, “I thought we dug in — hung there. I thought some of our sophomore pros (including Connor Zary) were playing a good game.” Other forward trios of the Flames against the Oilers were: Kevin Rooney between Dube and Eakin; Cole Schwindt centers Zary and Sonny Milano; and Clark Bishop with wingers McLain and Walker Deuhr… The blueline tandems were: Andersson with Noah Hanifin; Connor Mackey paired with Michael Stone; and Valimaki alongside Nicolas Meloche… McLain, aching in the hosts’ side all night, and Oilers defender Darnell Nurse had a short-lived struggle midway through the third period after Flames winger caught Evander Kane and knocked him down hard. “We were in the foreground all night, our line,” McLain said. “We were chipping and chasing a bit like we always did. I thought I hit Kane clean, but Sister came up to me and tried to hit me in open ice. It was just one of those things – I’m a man of emotions and I tried to stand up for myself.” With 3:32 to go, the two fighters re-engaged for a longer – and spirited – fight that would only fireworks were from the pre-season Battle of Alberta episode. “He wanted to go at it one more time, and I’m not going back on that. And I respect him standing up for a teammate. I was happy to oblige.”

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The two teams donned orange jerseys as they skate before the game to greet the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation… Huberdeau, Toffoli and Andersson wore the ‘A’s of the Flames’ alternate captain before the collision… Right Brett Ritchie, who was listed as having a day-to-day with a lower body injury, took part in Friday’s second group session… The Flames assigned 11 players to the AHL’s Wranglers – goalkeepers Brad Arvanitis and Daniil Chechelev, defenders Josh Brook and Rhett Rhinehart and forwards Calder Brooks, Lucas Feuk, Alex Gallant, Rory Kerins, Simon Lavigne, Matt Marcinew and Ilya Nikolaev… Exhibition action continues for the Flames on Monday versus the visiting Seattle Kraken at Scotiabank Saddledome (7pm), Wednesday against the host Winnipeg Jets at MTS Center (6pm) and next Friday in a rematch with the visiting Jets at the Dome (7pm)… The season opener for the Flames will face Thursday, October 13 the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche at the Dome (7:30 PM).

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