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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames turn to Desbiens for energy boost

In order to inject a little life into their club against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, the Calgary Flames have turned to Guillaume Desbiens.

A rough-and-tumble forward recalled yesterday from the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, Desbiens will make his Flames debut against the Broad Street Bullies.

It’s the perfect situation for his debut.

“They’re a physical team and I’m a physical player,” said Desbiens, who has 13 points with the Heat this season. “It’s going to be a good match for me and the kind of game I like to play in. I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to forecheck, be physical and try to bring some energy and try to spend some time in the offensive zone. If I can do that, I’ll be happy with my game.”

Lance Bouma, a fellow call-up from Abbotsford, thinks it’s the right situation for his teammate.

“That’s the type of player he is,” Bouma said. “He’s a big, strong guy who uses his body well. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves. He’s not shy with that at all. It’s a big game for him coming in.”

Coach Brent Sutter, whose Flames have shown little in the way of emotion in back-to-back losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes earlier in the week, hopes Desbiens can provide that spark.

“He’s a big, strong guy who plays with emotion, plays with his heart on his sleeve,” Sutter said. “He’s going to bang, crash, go hard to the net. He’s not a real high-end skilled guy. It gives him an opportunity and gives us an opportunity to see where he’s at.”

Emotion shouldn’t be difficult to find for Desbiens, who has 102 penalty minutes in 51 games this season in the AHL.

“It’s a good time of the year,” he said. “Stakes are high. The team is doing pretty good so we’re hoping to make a final push for the playoffs. The stakes are really high. When you’re younger you dream about these games.

Here's the Flames' projected lineup:

Jarome IginlaOlli JokinenCurtis Glencross
Alex TanguayMichael CammalleriBlake Comeau
Guillaume DesbiensRoman HorakTim Jackman
Lance BoumaMatt StajanTom Kostopoulos

Jay BouwmeesterDerek Smith
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
TJ BrodieCory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 2:49 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vermette excited for Phoenix debut

It won’t take long for Antoine Vermette to get acquainted with his new teammates.

One day after being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a pair of draft picks and goaltender Curtis McElhinney, Vermette is expected to be in the lineup Thursday night against the Calgary Flames

It has been a whirlwind 24 hours to say the least.

“It’s been crazy,” Vermette said. “I got the phone call and since then, I’ve been running around. I grabbed my stuff, my equipment, my luggage. I lost my luggage so I didn’t know if I’d have my stuff today. I’m glad I have everything back. It was one of those days running around.”

Lost luggage would have been a small price to pay for Vermette’s move. With the trade, he jumps from a last-place Blue Jackets squad to a Coyotes team in the thick of a playoff chase. Phoenix currently holds down the seventh spot in the Western Conference.

“This is really an exciting moment for me, being a part of a team in this position that is playing for a real purpose like that,” Vermette said. “It’s a great situation. You want to be in those situations and play in those important games. Here I have a chance to do it.”

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett likes the enthusiasm he’s seen out of his newest recruit.

“It’s the identity of our group,” Tippett said. “`We’re a group that has to play well together, has to depend on everyone to contribute for us to have success. We felt like he’d be a good fit on our team.
“I think he’ll fit in our group very well.”

Vermette hopes so too, and figures the change to Tippett’s system shouldn’t be too troubling.

“It’s a pretty simple game at the end of the day,” Vermette said. “From team-to-team, there are a few tweaks here and there, but for the most part you’re playing with good players and guys at this level know what to do.”

The bigger adjustment for Vermette might come with getting used to passing the puck to players in Phoenix’s brick red, as well as breaking in some new equipment.

“My pants feel a little tight,” Vermette said. “They’re brand new. I’m going to have to break them in.”

Here are the projected lineup for the Coyotes:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Mikkel Boedker
Paul Bissonnette - Matt Watkins - Boyd Gordon

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Michael Stone - Chris Summers

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 1:38 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames to add offense with return of Glencross

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames are expected to welcome back a big piece of their offense Thursday night when they host the Phoenix Coyotes.

Forward Curtis Glencross, who has missed 13 games with a knee injury, could return alongside Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla as the Flames make their playoff push.

"I feel pretty good and hopefully I get the nod," Glencross said. "The biggest thing is we don't know for sure what's going on. It's a game-time decision for the coaches. For me, it's just keeping it simple and get the feet back underneath me and try not to do anything out of the ordinary and get pucks on the net."

Only Iginla's 23 goals are more than what Glencross has contributed to the Flames this season despite missing the last five weeks of action. Both he and Jokinen have found the back of the net 18 times this year.

"Offensively, until he got hurt, he was having a career year," coach Brent Sutter said. "(But) it's the other things -- speed, killing penalties, we can use him on the power play -- there are different variables in Glennie's game that helps the team and helps the team have success."

Defenseman Derek Smith could also return to the lineup tonight after missing 22 games with a high ankle sprain. Smith, like Glencross, will be a game-time decision.

"It's definitely something I've been looking forward to the last eight weeks," Smith said. "I feel good. It's a coaches decision, it's a game-time decision, but as of right now I feel ready to go."

It's not all good news for the Flames.

Though they were handed an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at the hands of the provincial-rival Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, the bigger loss might have come with defenseman Chris Butler.

Racing back to cover an odd-man rush, Butler plowed into goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, cutting his leg in the process. He’s expected out three weeks.

Here's the Flames' projected lineup for tonight:

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay - Michael Cammalleri - Blake Comeau
Krys Kolanos - Roman Horak - Tim Jackman
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Lance Bouma

Derek Smith - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Nugent-Hopkins will miss latest Battle of Alberta

CALGARY -- If the Edmonton Oilers hope to put an end to a pair of lengthy losing streaks at the hands of the Calgary Flames, they'll do so without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Still bothered by a shoulder injury suffered Feb. 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nugent-Hopkins isn't ready to return.

"There's no discussion on that right now," associate coach Ralph Krueger said. "He's not 100 percent and he will not play unless he is 100 percent."

The Flames have won nine straight 'Battle of Alberta' contests and 10 consecutive on home ice. Calgary's winning streak over the Oilers at the Scotiabank Saddledome is the longest home streak against any opponent for the Flames.

"Lately they've really taken it to us," Krueger said. "They've played well of late. They're really looking like a playoff team at the moment, so we know we need to bring our 'A' game today irrelevant of the series so far. It's Calgary playing probably its best hockey.

"They have to win and we want to win. The pressure is definitely in their court."

In the crease, Devan Dubnyk is expected to get the start. Nikolai Khabibulan suffered a groin injury in Edmonton's 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and is expected to be out for 7-10 days. The Oilers have called up Yann Danis to serve as Dubnyk's backup.

Here's the projected lineup for the Oilers:

Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Magnus Paajarvi - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Eric Belanger - Ben Eager
Darcy Hordichuk - Anton Lander - Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Ryan Whitney - Tom Gilbert
Corey Potter - Andy Sutton

Devan Dubnyk
Yann Danis
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Help on the way for Flames

CALGARY -- With the Calgary Flames holding the slightest of edges in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, help is on the way.

While forward Curtis Glencross and defenseman Derek Smith will not be at coach Brent Sutter's disposal tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, their returns are nearing. Both took part in Calgary's morning skate.

"Whenever you can start getting your group of guys that have been on your team for a while and a big part of your success, getting these guys back on the ice and skating with the group is huge," Sutter said.

Glencross, who hopes to be back in the lineup sometime next week, said it was a relief to be back amongst his teammates on the ice.

"It not only feels better to just go skate with the guys, but better on your mind, too," he said.

The two remain on the injured reserve list alongside Mikael Backlund, Blair Jones, Lee Stempniak and David Moss. Most are expected back in early March -- just after the trade deadline.

"Any team out there that has injuries that haven't been participating with the team for a while and you're getting them back around the trade deadline or shortly thereafter, those are some of the best trades you can make," Sutter said. "It's cliché but it's true."

Here's the projected lineup for the Flames:

Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos - Michael Cammalleri - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Roman Horak - Krys Kolanos
Paul Byron - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ankle injury lands Gunnarsson on injured reserve

CALGARY -- The news isn't as bad as coach Ron Wilson feared, but that doesn't mean the Toronto Maple Leafs will have the services of defenseman Carl Gunnarsson against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.

Expected out for about a week, Gunnarsson was placed on injured reserve.

"He's got a slightly sprained ankle," Wilson said. "We figure he'll miss about a week, so we put him on IR. It's not bad, it's not a high ankle sprain like we feared. It's in the lower part of his foot. Today he feels much better, so we brought up Keith Aulie as a recall while he recuperates."

Aulie was summoned from the Toronto Marlies, but it is expected that Mike Komisarek will draw into the lineup. Komisarek has been scratched for Toronto's last six games.

"We're fortunate that we have a player like Mike, and hopefully he can shake off the rust because he hasn't played in a couple weeks and get the job done for us," Wilson said.

Komisarek will be playing in front of Jonas Gustavsson, who came on in relief of James Reimer in the Maple Leafs 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens Saturday. After three straight losses, Gustavsson is hoping he can put Toronto back in the win column.

"We lost a few in a row here and we need to get back to winning, and the sooner we can do that the better," he said.

Wilson said he only needs one thing out of his starting goaltender.

"Saves, simple as that," Wilson said. "That's what I expect. Any coach will tell you that is what you need. You need saves, timely saves, a save or two that can rob the other team and can build confidence for your team."

Here is the projected lineup for the Maple Leafs:

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Tim Connolly
Nikolai Kulemin - Matthew Lombardi - Joey Crabb
Mike Brown - David Steckel - Darryl Boyce

Dion Phaneuf - Jake Gardiner
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
Luke Schenn - Mike Komisarek

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 2:36 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Cammalleri becomes center of attention for Flames

CALGARY -- Michael Cammalleri has become the center of attention for the Calgary Flames.

With the loss of Mikael Backlund for upwards of eight weeks in Calgary's 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and with five other forwards on injured reserve, a depleted Flames squad will see Cammalleri down the middle between Tom Kostopoulos and Blake Comeau.

The adjustment to center will be one of ease for Cammalleri, said coach Brent Sutter.

"I'm not too worried about it, to be honest," Sutter said. "I think Cammie is going to handle it just fine. I'm fine with his wingers because they can play down low, too, if they need to. The three of the guys together are smart players and are responsible players."

Kostopoulos, who has been centered by Cammalleri before, agreed.

"He's too smart of a player for it to be difficult for him," he said. "I don't see it being a problem for him. He's a fun guy to play with. He's very talented and creative out there, and he is definitely the type of guy who makes his wingers better. It should be fun."

The Flames have recalled Paul Byron in Backlund's absence. Byron will know what to expect, having played 18 games this year with Calgary.

"I'm happy about the call-up," Byron said. "It's unfortunate that guys have to get hurt, but it's an opportunity for someone else. Other guys have to step up."

Calgary, which has lost 242 games due to injury this season, could be without Scott Hannan, who is battling the flu. That could open the door for the return of Anton Babchuk, who hasn't played since Jan. 17, a span of nine games.

Here is the Flames' projected lineup:

Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos - Michael Cammalleri - Blake Comeau
Paul Byron - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman
Lance Bouma - Roman Horak - Krys Kolanos

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 2:51 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kesler OK to play for Cancuks

The Vancouver Canucks will have forward Ryan Kesler in the lineup tonight against the division-rival Calgary Flames.

Kesler didn’t practice with the Canucks in Calgary yesterday, but confirmed his absence was a result of a maintenance day and not one of a more serious note.

“Good oil change,” Kesler said. “Topped up the fluids. It was a good day, a good rest day for me.”
 
Roberto Luongo, who backed up Cory Schneider in Vancouver’s 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Thursday, will get the call between the pipes.

He’s looking forward to extending the Canucks’ winning streak at the Scotiabank Saddledome to six. The last time Vancouver lost in Calgary was Oct. 16, 2009, outscoring the Flames 24-9 during the span.

“It’s a fun building to play in for us,” Luongo said. “It’s a good rivalry with these guys and they always make for some good games. There isn’t one specific element I can say but guys enjoy playing here and we like the atmosphere in this building.”

Kesler agreed.

“We prepare really well for these guys,” Kesler said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, a battle. I think that’s why we’re so successful. We know it’s going to be a hard-nosed game.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Canucks:

Daniel SedinHenrik SedinByron Bitz
David BoothRyan KeslerAlexandre Burrows
Mason RaymondManny MalhotraJannik Hansen
Maxim LapierreCody HodgsonMike Duco

Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Andrew AlbertsAaron Rome

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider
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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 2:28 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames' Jones out with broken ankle

Calgary Flames forward Blair Jones could only call it a bad break.

Blocking a shot while killing a penalty in Calgary’s 2-1 overtime loss against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, Jones will miss significant time with an ankle fracture while the Flames are pushing for a playoff position.

“I had some x-rays done and it’s a broken ankle,” Jones said. “I don’t really know how long it’s going to take. It’s a tough break, especially at this time of the year. It’s an exciting time to play – pushing hard to get into the playoffs. It’s very frustrating. You kind of feel helpless.”

Jones knew immediately something was wrong after taking Ray Whitney’s slap shot off the foot.

“Sometimes when you block them it stings and you limp around but then the feeling comes back and you can manage to move around,” Jones said. “I couldn’t. I was leaning on my stick to try to stand up. I had no feeling in it. It was pretty bad.”

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla knows there is no downplaying the loss of Jones.

“It’s a big loss, there’s no question about that,” Iginla said. “We’ve ran into our share this year. We’ve found a way to hang in there and we’re going to have to keep doing that. It’s an opportunity for our younger guys.”

One of those younger guys is 20-year-old Roman Horak, recalled Friday to take Jones’ spot in the lineup as Calgary gets set to face the Vancouver Canucks. Horak has played 42 games with the Flames this season, recording two goals and nine points.

Horak, who actually played Thursday in the Scotiabank Saddledome as a member of the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, had a quick return to Calgary.

“It was crazy. We woke up at 5 in the morning (Friday) and flew to Abbotsford,” said Horak, who is now situated between Iginla and Michael Cammalleri in the dressing room. “When I finally got home I got the call and was told I was coming back.

“I’m excited, for sure. It’s always a big honor to get called up every time and I’m going to try to do my best on the ice.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Flames:

Alex TanguayOlli JokinenJarome Iginla
Michael CammalleriMikael BacklundBlake Comeau
Lance BoumaRoman HorakKrys Kolanos
Tom KostopoulosMatt StajanTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterChris Butler
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
TJ BrodieCory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 4:08 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames prospects excited for AHL clash in Calgary

CALGARY -- Skating on the ice at Scotiabank Saddledome is nothing new for Paul Byron.

Doing so in an Abbotsford Heat jersey is.

Returning to the Stampede City as a member of the Flames’ AHL affiliate, Byron will skate alongside his Heat teammates against the Oklahoma City Barons in a home game – of sorts – in Calgary. It will be the lone game Abbotsford plays in the Flames’ rink this season.

“It feels good to be back,” said Byron. “I’ve played a few games here.”

Eighteen, to be exact, and Byron isn’t the only Abbotsford skater able to make that claim. He is one of nine Heat players to be recalled by Calgary at some point this season and see time in the NHL with the Flames. Four currently remain with the parent club.
 
Opportunities within the Calgary organization have never been made more readily available than this year. Often criticized in the past for the lack of promotion the club has done within the organization, the argument certainly no longer holds merit.

And it’s made for a more motivated player pool for the Flames to draw from.

“It helps everyone on the team,” Byron said. “Everyone is motivated. Everyone knows they could be the guy to get called up. We’ve had a ton of guys come up and down this year. We’ve got (four) guys that started the year with our team up there now. It’s a great motivator in the room.”

Heat coach Troy Ward has had the unenviable task of trying to play without some of his best players largely in part to frequent callups by the Flames. He’s not the least bit offended, though. In fact, he’s pleased by it.

“Here’s what you’re proud of for me, the management team in Calgary made a statement to these guys, if you do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll get rewarded,” Ward said. “I’ve been in a lot of organizations – that’s not always the case. The organization has stuck behind its word.”

No truer are Ward’s words than in the likes of TJ Brodie, who has become a mainstay on the Flames blueline. Brodie, averaging 16:53 in ice time, has 11 points in 40 games and has likely left Abbotsford in the rear view permanently.

Another example is Krys Kolanos, who missed 22 months of hockey while battling injury. On a minor-league deal to start the season with Abottsford, Kolanos was signed and promptly promoted last week by the Flames after recording 40 points in 34 games with the Heat this season.

“We’ve had some young guys like a Brodie that started with us that probably will never come back,” Ward said. “At the same time we’ve had Kolanos, who hadn’t played in (22) months, earn himself a contract. They’ve had both ends of the extreme. The management team up above with Jay and company has managed it that way and it’s a rewarding system.”

Don’t think the players in Abbotsford haven’t noticed the reward, either.
 
“Anyone can get a call at any given time,” said Ryan Howse, the Flames third pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “It’s encouraging for everyone. You’ve got guys coming up and staying up for a while. Just to see the movement this year is something special and says a lot about our team and even our coaching staff. Everyone has done a good job preparing our guys.”

For Akim Aliu, the thought is extra enticing. Bouncing around in the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets organizations after being drafted in 2007, Aliu is thrilled at what he sees with the Flames after being acquired by the club 10 days ago.

“This is one of the best places in the league to be right now as a young guy,” Aliu said. “There’s been a lot of opportunity with guys coming up, and not just for a short period of time. Guys have stuck around for a bit.”

For players like Aliu, Howse and Ben Walter who haven’t got the call yet, the game in Calgary is much like an introduction on what to expect. Sharing the same facility as the Flames and getting the opportunity to play in front of the ‘C of Red’ has Heat hopefuls thrilled.

“Everyone is pretty excited,” Walter said. “It’s a great opportunity for all of us. This is our parent team and we get to play in their building in front of their fans.”

Howse certainly agrees with his teammate.

“It’s going to be really exciting,” Howse said. “The environment and dressing over here and using the weight room and playing in front of (Flames) fans, you’re going to have that energy. There’s going to be a lot of excitement.”

And excitement is building around the opportunity to one day achieve the dream of reaching the NHL – as a member of the Calgary Flames.

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I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday