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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:21 PM

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

Kolanos thankful for another NHL opportunity

CALGARY -- Krys Kolanos has waited nearly three years for another opportunity – two years, 10 months and 4 days to be exact.

After signing a two-year, two-way contract Wednesday with the Calgary Flames, Kolanos was one step closer to returning to National Hockey League ice.

That step will be taken Friday night.

Kolanos, whose last NHL outing came on March 31, 2009, as a member of the Minnesota Wild, will draw into the Flames lineup Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks at Scotiabank Saddledome.

“I feel very blessed and very thankful,” Kolanos said. “I’ve worked hard for a second opportunity. It’s been a long process, no question. Never in my mind did I doubt that I’d make this step and then keep it going.”

Kolanos was summoned by Flames general manager Jay Feaster after learning forward Lee Stempniak would be lost for an indeterminate amount of time with a lower-body injury.

That is a bit ironic, considering Kolanos’ journey almost ended in part to what would be considered a lower-body injury. Kolanos missed half of the 2009-10 season and all of 2010-11 recovering from micro-fracture surgery on his hip nearly two years ago.

“It was a five-hour surgery so it was pretty major,” Kolanos said. “The doctor did a great job in Nashville and he said ‘if you stay with the process and work every day over that time period, there’d be a good chance’. I was able to do that so I’m very grateful for that.”

It was perseverance in the face of adversity that fueled Kolanos’ comeback.

He joined the Abbotsford Heat – Calgary’s American Hockey League affiliate – in September on a professional tryout basis. After earning AHL All-Star honors with 18 goals and 40 points in 34 games, the Flames decided the Calgary native had done enough to warrant a contract.

“It was about a 22-month process coming into this season,” Kolanos said. “It was definitely something I had to stay patient with and stay disciplined with through the whole thing to even get to this point.”

Current Flame and former Heat teammate, Lance Bouma, said it was nice to see Kolanos get a second lease on his hockey life.

“I think it’s huge for him,” Bouma said. “He’s battled through a lot of things over the past couple years.

He’s really worked hard to get back here and it shows a lot about him as a person that he’s been able to come back and get through all the stuff he was dealing with in his life. It’s exciting for him.”

Added Kolanos: “That word is an understatement. It’s been a very emotional time. It’s another step in the journey here for me.”

A step he is taking in his hometown, no less.

“It’s an unbelievable experience and feeling,” the Calgary product said. “I grew up a Flames fan and watched them win a Cup when I was eight years old. It just feels like it’s a part of me. It’s hard to describe.”

Make no mistake about it, Kolanos will have a lot of support. The former first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes will have a few supporters – to say the least – in the crowd tonight.

“It’ll be over 100, so it will be pretty big here tonight,” Kolanos said. “I’ve got a great support system here in town so it’s going to be really exciting to play in front of them.”

And accomplish the goal he set out for himself 22 months ago.

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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 2:58 PM

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

Morrison makes speedy return to Calgary

CALGARY -- It didn't take long for former Flames forward Brendan Morrison to find his way back to Calgary.

Traded from the Flames to the Chicago Blackhawks during the All-Star break, Morrison didn't have to wait long to see his former teammates. His Blackhawks will take on the Flames Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, just six days after being dealt in exchange for minor-league defenseman Brian Connelly.

But it won't be a warm welcome despite his reputation as one of the more universally liked and respected members of the hockey community.

At least according to Mikael Backlund, that is.

"It's another opponent, so you can’t treat him like that," Backlund said. "It's going to be a little weird. He's a great teammate and great guy. That's how it works in this business. He's an opponent now and we'll treat him like that. There are no friends out there."

Rugged defenseman Scott Hannan isn't about to go easy on the 36-year-old Morrison, either.

"That's bragging rights in the summer," Hannan said. "You go hard against a guy like that. I'm looking forward to battling him in the corner."

Michael Cammalleri, acquired by the Flames on Jan. 12, was hoping to spend a little more time with Morrison before his sudden departure. Instead, the two were teammates for just 14 days.

Now, Cammalleri will have the luxury of lining up against the newest member of the Blackhawks.

"To me, I was really excited to get to play with him," Cammalleri said with a smile. "It was brief. Tonight, I'll get to play against him, which I have had the privilege to do many times."

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game:

FLAMES
Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Michael Cammalleri - Krys Kolanos - Blair Jones
Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Blake Comeau
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

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

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

BLACKHAWKS
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Brendan Morrison - Marian Hossa
Andrew Shaw - Dave Bolland - Marcus Kruger
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Bryan Bickell

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy
Steve Montador - John Scott

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 3:26 PM

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

Red Wings hope to maintain pre-break momentum

CALGARY -- The Detroit Red Wings entered the All-Star break with the most points of any franchise.

It's coach Mike Babcock's job to ensure his club returns to the ice with that same focus.

"We have to get started again," Babcock said, whose Red Wings have a league-best 67 points heading into tonight's action with the Calgary Flames.

"Any way you look at it, any momentum you had is now gone. There's a bunch of teams battling. The teams that are in the clump right outside the playoffs are the toughest down the stretch."

That doesn't mean Babcock has a slough of adjustments he wants his team to make.
 
"Not a whole bunch of (changes)," Babcock said. "Obviously you're always trying to make your team better. In saying that, there's no question about it we have to be a better team. There's lots of improvement for this group, we understand that, now let's play the games."

If there's any question his team feels the same way, veteran Todd Bertuzzi said the message came through loud and clear.

"It's tight in the West, every point is important," Bertuzzi said. "I don't think we have time to feel out. I think we're pretty much ready."

Detroit's projected lineup for tonight's game:

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 2:26 PM

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

Iginla, recharged Flames ready to chase playoff berth

CALGARY -- It didn't take long for Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla to refocus after spending the All-Star break as a member of Team Chara.

Iginla and teammate Michael Cammalleri were the first two on the ice in preparation for the Detroit Red Wings tonight, firing one-timers, a tradition the two shared as teammates during Cammalleri's first stint with the Flames.

Needless to say, the captain is recharged and ready to lead the Flames to their first playoff berth since 2008-09 despite spending his break participating in the All-Star Game.

"Even though it's a few days, we have lots to do there, but at the same time mentally it's not that intense," Iginla said. "I'm excited to get back and get going. It's a nice break to get going for the stretch drive."

That's good news for Calgary coach Brent Sutter, whose team sits at 52 points on the season, putting the club in 11th in the Western Conference and three behind the eighth-place Minnesota Wild. The Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes also have 52 points.

"I don't think it's any different for our team as any other team," Sutter said. "I think for all teams it's time for them mentally to take a break from the game and get re-energized and refreshed."

In other words, Sutter's Flames have to ignite the rest of the way in order to leapfrog into a playoff position.

"The reset button is pushed for everybody, and now everyone is on the same page as far as coming off the break," Sutter said.

Calgary's projected lineup tonight:

Alex Tanguay - Mikael Backlund - Jarome Iginla
Michael Cammalleri - Olli Jokinen - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Blair Jones - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

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

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:52 PM

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

Flames likely to get Tanguay back after long absence

CALGARY -- After a 15-game absence from the Calgary Flames lineup, Alex Tanguay is set to return to action tonight against the San Jose Sharks.

At least, that’s what it sounds like from the update of a jovial Brent Sutter.

"He slept well last night, he had a good breakfast this morning, he came to the rink and he was good this morning, so all likelihood he will play tonight," the Flames coach said.

Tanguay was a little more direct in regards to his status.

"I think I'm going to go tonight, that seems to be the plan," Tanguay said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's been a while. I'm anxious to get back and just try to work my hardest and try to help the team keep going."

Out with a neck injury since Dec. 22, Tanguay admits he's eager to return despite not being completely healthy.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I was 100 percent," Tanguay said. "I'm anxious to be back. I'm just going to do as much as I can and help the team and we'll see where that fits in."

Matt Stajan, who left practice yesterday after falling hard to the ice, is not expected to be in the lineup. Nor is Lance Bouma, who blocked a shot with his foot in Saturday's win over the Edmonton Oilers.

Here's the Flames' projected lineup for tonight's game:

Michael Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau - Olli Jokinen - Lee Stempniak
Alex Tanguay - Blair Jones - Tom Kostopoulos
Brendan Morrison - Roman Horak - Tim Jackman

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

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:47 PM

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

No Burns for Sharks

CALGARY -- After suffering an injury to his leg last night, the San Jose Sharks will be without defenseman Brent Burns tonight against the Calgary Flames.

Burns suffered the injury after taking a hit from Ales Hemsky in the Sharks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Hemsky was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for kneeing.

Though Burns won't be playing, there is a silver lining.

"The injury is not as severe as we originally thought," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "The good news is it isn't a knee, it's more of a charley horse situation. He'll need some treatment beginning today and hopefully when we get through the All-Star break he'll be ready to play."

McLellan has some options to replace Burns. The team has been carrying eight defensemen since activating Jim Vandermeer off injured reserve; Vandermeer had missed 20 games with an upper-body injury.

"We do have some options," McLellan said. "We'll make some decisions at game-time."

However, it will be tough for the Sharks to replace Burns, who has averaged 22:25 of ice time per game while playing in all 46 games.

"There is a large portion of our back end that we rely on that comes through Brent Burns," McLellan said. "He plays a lot of minutes in every situation. He can be physical and skate the puck out of trouble. There are a lot of assets he has that we need on a nightly basis.

"That being said, we aren't the only team with bumps and bruises this time of year."

Without Burns, here's the lineup the Sharks likely will use tonight:

Andrew Desjardins - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - John McCarthy - Andrew Murray

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Justin Braun
Colin White - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi will start in goal, with Thomas Greiss the backup.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 3:42 PM

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

Sutters signing same tune on game day

CALGARY -- Just hours before puck drop between the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames -- better billed as Sutter versus Sutter -- both Darryl and Brent didn't waver.

The game isn't about them.

Despite it being the first time the two brothers have faced each other from behind the bench, coupled with the game being Darryl's first in Calgary since leaving the Flames organization in December 2010, Brent reiterated that there is no storyline from a family perspective.

"That's the neat thing about it," Brent said. "It's not even an issue with us. It is for everyone else, but not for us. It's LA versus Calgary. I haven't given it much thought. It's not the first time brothers have coached against each other and it won't be the last. It's not that big of deal, it really isn't."

In short, it isn't a story.

"We've done it our whole lives," Darryl said.

It was tough for Kings forward Colin Fraser to disagree.

"They grew up together, probably beating each other up their whole lives," said Fraser, who was coached by Brent as a member of the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels.

Brent isn't rushing to get the game over with. He knows the questions about Darryl will continue to come long after Los Angeles departs for Sunday's game against Edmonton.

"Someone will ask the question again, I know (the media) well enough," Brent said. "It's not that big of a deal, it really isn't."
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Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

Kopitar ready to go after leaving previous game

CALGARY -- There is no doubting the participation of Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar in tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames, according to coach Darryl Sutter.

In fact, despite taking a hard hit from Brendan Morrow that forced Kopitar out of the game in the Kings' 5-4 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Los Angeles' leading scorer would've been ready to return had there been more time on the clock.

Kopitar had a goal and two assists before being crunched by Morrow with just 7:48 left in the third period. He missed both overtime and the shootout.

"By the time we left the Staples Center he was ready to play," Sutter said. "I think if we would've played two that night he would've been back for the second one."

Which means Kopitar will be at Sutter's disposal when he returns to the Scotiabank Saddledome for the first time since Dec. 2010 when he left the organization after an eight-year tenure, first as coach and then general manager.

"(It's) nice to come see lots of people working in the building that you spent early morning and late days with," Sutter said. "I came here in a tough situation in every area, on and off the ice. It was one of the most successful on-and-off the ice teams in the NHL for a long time. That's pretty good."

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 3:14 PM

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

Cammalleri to debut with Stempniak, Backlund

CALGARY -- Taking line rushes with Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak, newly acquired Michael Cammalleri has found a line, at least temporarily, with the Calgary Flames.

After a hectic 48 hours, Cammalleri wasn't made available to the media after the game-day skate. That didn't stop Stempniak from showing his excitement to play with the Flames newest forward.

"Obviously he's a great offensive player," Stempniak said. "He has a great shot and good offensive instincts. It should be a good fit. Hopefully we can get some goals and get going right off the bat. It should be fun."

Stempniak shouldn't necessarily get too comfortable with Cammalleri, according to coach Brent Sutter.

"I guess we'll get a feel," Sutter said. "I'll get a feel for it from a game and see how it goes and where it's at and whether it's the right center or right winger there. I just have to see it. I don't really have a feel for it right now."

Despite past success between Cammalleri and Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, Sutter wasn't tempted to put the two together immediately. The move would force Sutter to split up Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross, one of the hottest trios in the league.

"Olli, Glennie and Jarome have been one of the best lines in hockey for the last six weeks," Sutter said. "We're excited to have Cammi come to our hockey team but because you acquire someone you don't shake up your team for one individual. Cammi understands it."

FLAMES
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Michael Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Lance Bouma - Blair Jones - Blake Comeau
Tom Kostopoulos - Roman Horak - Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich
Mark Giordano - Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 2:07 AM

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

Jones knows Ramo well

CALGARY -- Goaltender Karri Ramo contacted former teammate Blair Jones a few days ago to congratulate him on Jones' trade to Calgary. As fate would have it, Jones will have to return the same email.

Six days after the Calgary Flames acquired Jones in a trade with Tampa Bay, Ramo -- a former Tampa Bay Lightning prospect now playing in Russia -- was packaged with a fifth-round pick alongside and forward Michael Cammalleri and sent to Montreal in exchange for Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and a second-rounder in 2013.

"He actually just congratulated me on the trade to Calgary on the computer," Jones said after scoring the overtime winner Thursday night in the Flames' 1-0 victory against Anaheim. "Funny enough, he's been traded here."

Once again, Jones and the Ramo find themselves a part of the same NHL organization. Both Ramo and Jones played together in the American Hockey League as members of the Springfield Falcons in 2006-07 and again in 2007-08 as members of the Norfolk Admirals.

After two seasons in the AHL, Ramo split time between Norfolk and the Lightning in 2008-09. It was his last season of North American hockey before returning to Europe to play with Omsk Avangard of the Kontinental Hockey League.

"I played with him my rookie season in the minors," Jones said, who scored his first goal with the Flames after coming from Tampa Bay last week. "He was a good goalie prospect and he just took a few years and played in Russia. We'll see what happens to him. He's a very good goalie."

The Tampa Bay connection doesn't end at Jones. Ramo was selected by the Lightning in the sixth round of the 2004 NHL Draft by current Flames general manager Jay Feaster, then the GM in Tampa Bay.

But Jones admitted he isn't sure if a Lightning reunion in Calgary is in the cards for the former Tampa Bay trio.

"I don't know the status of what he'll be doing but he's a good guy, good goalie," Jones said.

A good guy with a congratulatory email he'll be sure to read in the morning.

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He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers