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Posted On Saturday, 02.01.2014 / 3:20 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild's Parise, Suter avoiding Olympic distractions

CALGARY -- Though there's plenty of pre-Olympic attention focused on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild, both players have their attention focused solely on the Calgary Flames.

The Wild will wrap up the road portion of their pre-Olympic schedule against the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday. Once the break starts, Parise and Suter will both play prominent roles on an American team looking to win gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But until that break begins, neither player is thinking about Sochi.

"Of course, I'm looking forward to it, but there's a few more games before the break and then we'll head over there," Parise said. "There's a lot to do before we get to go."

Calgary is the first of three remaining games for the Wild, who will also host the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins before breaking for the Games.

For now, Parise's eyes are on the Flames, who have scored 16 goals over their four-game winning streak. Calgary will welcome Mike Cammalleri back to the lineup. The wing missed nine straight with a concussion and ranks third on the Flames with 13 goals despite missing 17 games this season.

Posted On Thursday, 01.30.2014 / 2:22 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Cammalleri return pushed back by Flames

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri will wait an extra 48 hours to make his return from a concussion.

Originally scheduled to be in the lineup Thursday against the San Jose Sharks after missing eight straight with the injury, Cammalleri and the team have decided to wait an extra few days to get his legs back under him.

"[I] talked to coach [Bob Hartley] about it," Cammalleri said. "I really only had one practice in the last few weeks, real practice. [I] just came back from having been away for a couple days. It was maybe more a fact of we want guys coming back in the lineup ready to help the team and get their legs under them a little bit. I'm OK with that."

Cammalleri sustained the concussion in Calgary's 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 11 and has skated with the team just a handful of times since.

He's now expected back Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.28.2014 / 3:29 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks expect road to foster camaraderie, wins

CALGARY -- Though the Chicago Blackhawks own the third-best home record in the NHL, a lengthy stint away from United Center could be the cure for their recent struggles.

The Blackhawks, who are set to embark on a string of six straight away from Chicago before the Olympic break, have been particularly productive on lengthy stints on the road.

"I honestly think it's just the chemistry we have in the locker room," forward Andrew Shaw said. "Being on the road with the guys is always fun. Going into someone else's barn and stealing a couple points is always satisfying. The games aren't going to be the prettiest but as long as we go out there and work things should go our way, that's for sure."

The Blackhawks went 6-1-0 on their annual circus trip in November, when they were forced to vacate their rink in favor of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. Early last season Chicago went 4-0-2 on another extended road trip.

And in the middle of a stretch where Chicago has won three of its past 10 games, the timing for a lengthy road swing might be perfect.

Posted On Friday, 01.24.2014 / 2:26 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Flames push for two straight at home vs. Predators

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames found a way to win one on home ice. Now they're set on making it two.

Snapping a franchise-record seven-game losing skid at Scotiabank Saddledome in a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes two days ago, the Flames will push to earn back-to-back wins in their own building for just the third time this season in welcoming the Nashville Predators on Friday.

"We want to build," coach Bob Hartley said. "We try to give more and more roles to our young players to fast forward that progression, but at the same time we take every game, whether it's a home game or a road game, we want to establish that this is our home and we want to be tough to play against here."

The Flames are just 8-14-3 in Calgary this season. The 19 points collected on home ice is the second fewest in the NHL, trailing just the Edmonton Oilers' 18 points (8-13-2).

Posted On Wednesday, 01.22.2014 / 2:50 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Flames aim to snap home skid against Coyotes

CALGARY -- It hasn't been home sweet home for the Calgary Flames of late.

The Flames will look to snap a franchise-record seven-game losing skid on home ice when hosting the Phoenix Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.

Since taking a 4-3 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 23, the Flames haven't found a winning formula on 'Dome ice and have been outscored 22-4 during their spell.

It gets worse.

Their last regulation victory at home came on Dec. 4 in a 4-1 win over the same Coyotes team they'll host as Calgary kicks off a five-game homestand.

Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 3:56 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Maurice relishing opportunity with Jets

CALGARY -- Things certainly have changed in the life of Paul Maurice over the past week.

After an inconsistent start to the season that saw the Winnipeg Jets slip to 12th in the Western Conference, Maurice was hired to replace coach Claude Noel on Sunday.

It's given Maurice a renewed appreciation for coaching.

"The one thing I've noticed in my non-coaching life, the day is really, really long," Maurice said. "You're at noon going, 'I've got nine more hours before I even have to watch a hockey game.' Here you're looking at your watch and saying, 'Where did the last 12 hours go?' But that's why it's awesome.

"That's a big part of me loving this. You're moving and you're going. It's great."

Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 1:36 AM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Fight nearly costs two Top Prospects chance to shine

CALGARY -- For a brief moment, Jacob Middleton and Aaron Haydon thought they had lost their chance to shine.

Middleton, from Team Cherry and Haydon, from Team Orr, renewed Ontario Hockey League acquaintances and dropped the gloves at 17:41 of the first period, a staged-but-spirited tilt that brought the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd to its feet during the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday.

But prior to the bout, both removed their helmets -- and under Canadian Hockey League rule, each was assessed a game misconduct. However, the ruling was rescinded in the first intermission thanks in part to Team Cherry assistant coach Paul Reinhart.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 3:52 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Butterflies settling in for roommates Virtanen, McCann

CALGARY -- Jake Virtanen has played many memorable games at Scotiabank Saddledome. His biggest will come Wednesday.

The Calgary Hitmen forward will serve as alternate captain for Team Orr at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).

"It's pretty cool," the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder said. "Obviously playing in front of the Hitmen fans, I'm used to that. Playing in front of the Flames fans will be pretty cool too. I played the Teddy Bear Toss here and it was fully packed for that. It was pretty cool as well. I'm kind of used to that. It'll be pretty fun to just get the game going and have fun out there."

Former NHL player Tim Hunter, who saw action in 815 games in parts of 16 seasons, put Team Orr through the paces at the morning skate.

It's the most nervous Virtanen, ranked ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings, has felt over the course of the three-day event.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 3:28 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Nedeljkovic, Billia face tough task as backups

CALGARY -- Alex Nedeljkovic and Julio Billia face a challenge unlike any the 38 other players assembled for the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) have to deal with.

The goaltenders will square off against each other at opposite ends of the ice but won't do so until the first stoppage of play after the midway mark of the second period.

In other words, they pulled back-up duty.

"We flipped a coin for it and unfortunately I got the second half of the game," Nedeljkovic, who will play for Team Cherry, said. "I'd rather start and come out after the first 30 [minutes] just because I'm already warm after the warmups. It's how it goes. I'm not too worried about it.

"You always have to be ready to go in no matter what, whether you're starting or whether you're backing up. You never know what's going to happen so you always have to be ready to step in and give your team a chance to win."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 9:34 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

De Leo a veteran of Top Prospects games

CALGARY -- When it comes to playing in prospects games, Chase De Leo is close to qualifying for veteran status.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Portland Winterhawks forward will make his second appearance in an event that pits the top peers of his age group against each other when he participates in the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).

De Leo played in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 26 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, but the 18-year old admitted his participation in that game doesn't give him an advantage in this one.

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Well, for me this one's concerning, the way we performed. Because three games in, playing a desperate team on the road, I was expecting something else than this. Right now, I'm just disappointed. The other games, I thought we did some things that you can build off your game. There wasn't a lot accomplished in tonight's game.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards after a 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Monday dropped Columbus to 0-3-0
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