CALGARY – When Bob Hartley’s general manager asked him about Joey MacDonald last month, the Calgary Flames’ coach called one person to his office at Scotiabank Saddledome.
“Jay Feaster asked me what I thought about Joey Mac and for me, when you’re dealing with a goalie you have to ask teammates, especially for a backup,” Hartley said.
Hartley summoned Jiri Hudler, a teammate with MacDonald in Detroit, and before then, in Grand Rapids.
“I brought Jiri Hudler in my office and asked him about Joey,” Hartley said. “And Jiri, right away, said that he was a great guy. No hesitation. He’s a hard worker and he’s been just as Jiri told me.”
The Flames claimed MacDonald off of waivers on Feb. 11. And since then, the 33-year-old from Nova Scotia has produced a 3-4-1 record with a 2.85 goals-against average.
He isn’t scheduled to start tonight when his new team hosts his old team. But that’s OK for MacDonald, who has one career start against Detroit, a shutout victory for the New York Islanders.
“It’s always great when you’ve played in an organization for eight or nine years that you get an opportunity to play against them,” MacDonald said. “I played against them that one time with the Islanders, but we played the other night in L.A., and it was a tough game that we lost 3-1.
“I thought my game was where it has to be when you don’t play for 3-4 games, but that’s the backup’s role. You have to be ready to come in and give the team a chance to win every night.”
MacDonald always played well for the Wings. Last year, he won seven straight games and finished with an 8-5-1 record and a 2.16 GAA. But his back pain flared up last March during a game in Anaheim and he never played in a Red Wings’ uniform again.
With the off-season signing of Swedish netminder Jonas Gustavsson and the emergence of prospect Petr Mrazek, the writing was on the wall for MacDonald, who is now with his fifth NHL club in seven years.
MacDonald has been a blessing for the Flames, who have struggled to keep a healthy goalie between the pipes this season. Veteran Miikka Kiprusoff missed 13 games with a knee injury. But with a pair of minor-league netminders trying to hold down the fort in Kiprusoff’s absence, the Flames felt they needed to seek a solution outside of the organization.
Enter MacDonald, who he himself was coming off a significant lower back injury, which sidelined the veteran backup for about 11 months. But he’s gained the trust of his new team.
“Mac is the ultimate team guy,” Hartley said. “For me, I had Johan Hedberg in Atlanta and he reminds me a lot of the Moose. He gets in the net like a half an hour before practice and the Zamboni kicks him out at the end of practice.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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