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Posted On Sunday, 03.18.2012 / 2:23 PM

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

Flames control their playoff destiny

CALGARY – Whether or not the Calgary Flames make the playoffs is up to them.
 
Currently on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture, the Flames have five of their remaining 10 games against teams they are chasing, or chasing away, in the race.
 
And with little help on the out of town scoreboard of late, Calgary is more than happy to handle the dirty work.
 
“We have to worry about ourselves in here,” Curtis Glencross said. “You’re watching every night, you’re watching to see what’s going on around the league. The ultimate goal at the end of the night is we come in here and do our part and that’s all we can ask for.
 
“We’ve got to go one period and one game at a time.”
 
The Flames will see both the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars twice before the season closes and will go head-to-head with the Los Angeles Kings once. All three teams currently sit ahead of Calgary in the standings, though a win by the Flames over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night at Scotiabank Saddledome can change all that.
 
In the jumbled playoff picture the Flames, currently 11th in the West, trail the Phoenix Coyotes by one point, while two points separate Calgary from the Kings and San Jose Sharks. The difference between the club and both Colorado and Dallas sits at three. 
 
“We can wake up tomorrow morning and the standings will be completely different and then the next day wake up again and they’ll be completely different again,” coach Brent Sutter said. “Worry about yourselves and take care of yourselves – it’s what you can control. If you’re doing what you need to do, you’ll get to where you need to get to.”
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Posted On Sunday, 03.18.2012 / 2:13 PM

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

Flames getting healthier with Stempniak return

CALGARY – The return of forward Lee Stempniak has allowed Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter to shuffle the deck.
 
Missing 21 consecutive games with an ankle injury, Stempniak is set to return to the Flames in the midst of their playoff push Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, skating alongside David Moss and Blake Comeau.
 
“For me to come in, I’m excited,” Stempniak said. “I can’t wait to get back and I think it’s a great way to jump into it.
 
“It’s tough being out. The hardest part is mentally, knowing you can’t be out there and being patient and doing all the little things right to make sure you get back on time. I think emotionally, you’re really excited to be back. You want to be in there and make a difference when you can.”
 
The shake-up moves Moss back to center, a position he’s rarely played since returning from his own injury earlier in the month.
 
“Wherever (Sutter) wants me to play,” Moss said. “It might not last. Last game I was playing left wing, center, right wing so tonight it’s the middle and I’m looking forward to it.”
 
The line gives Sutter another trio that he can be comfortable with in all situations as the Flames look to make ground in a difficult Western Conference playoff chase.
 
“It gives you another line that you can put together that has some experience and give us a little size there with Mosser moving to center,” Sutter said.
 
With Stempniak returning to the lineup and Lance Bouma (upper-body) and Tim Jackman (shoulder) nearing return, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Calgary’s sick bay – currently inhabited by seven players.
 
“We get one guy back so it’s encouraging,” Sutter said. “It’s an encouraging day, just being able to slowly get through this and get this guys back that can provide us with some experience.”
 
Projected lineup

Alex TanguayMatt StajanJarome Iginla
Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenTom Kostopoulos
Lee StempniakDavid MossBlake Comeau
Greg NemiszRoman HorakGuillaume Desbiens
 
Jay BouwmeesterDerek Smith
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
Cory SarichAnton Babchuk
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:36 PM

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

Aucoin, Vrbata are question marks for Coyotes

CALGARY -- The Phoenix Coyotes could be without a pair of important pieces to their playoff puzzle in the second of back-to-back games against the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome Thursday.
 
Both Adrian Aucoin and Radim Vrbata are questionable for the game, an important contest in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Coyotes are currently seventh in the West and hold a three-point advantage over the Flames at 81.
 
Vrbata missed the 5-4 victory over Vancouver Wednesday due to illness and is considered day-to-day by the club.
 
Aucoin did suit up against the Canucks, but did not finish the game, which could pave the way for either Michael Stone or Derek Morris to return to the lineup. Stone was a healthy scratch for the Coyotes, while Morris hasn’t played since Feb. 11 due to personal reasons.
 
Either could play in front of goaltender Mike Smith, who is expected to start against Calgary. Smith has started 13 of the previous 14 games for the Coyotes.
 
Here's the projected lineup for the Coyotes:

Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Gilbert Brule
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Paul Bissonnette
 
Keith Yandle - David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone
 
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
 
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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:10 PM

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

Flames close to getting Stempniak, Bouma back

CALGARY -- Help is on the way for the Calgary Flames.
 
The list of eight players on the injured reserve list will soon shrink with the pending returns of Lee Stempniak and Lance Bouma. Unfortunately for the Flames, though, that will not happen Thursday night when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
 
Both Bouma and Stempniak took the game-day skate, but will not play against the Coyotes, who hold a three-point edge on Calgary in the Western Conference playoff chase.
 
"To be able to get out there and skate, it felt good," said Bouma, who has missed four games with an upper-body injury. "We'll take it day-by-day and see how it feels as it goes on. Today was good; the practice was good. We'll see how it goes."
 
After missing 19 games with an ankle injury, Stempniak is in a similar situation.
 
"I'm more day-to-day then week-to-week," Stempniak said. "I feel good. I think at some point I'll do more practice and do more contact and see how it is. At that point it will be coach's decision."
 
Coach Brent Sutter pegged Stempniak as the next to return from the sick bay.
 
"Probably Stemps is the closest out of everyone right now, as long as he has no setbacks," Sutter said. "They're both getting real close."
 
The return of either would spell the end of junior recall Sven Baertschi, up on an emergency basis from the WHL's Portland Winterhawks. He will be forced to return to juniors as soon as either is healthy.
 
"After the next guy, if things stay as is and the next guy gets healthy enough to return and he's at the level he needs to be to get back in our lineup, then Baertsch will have to go down," Sutter said. "It's just the way the rules work."
 
Fully aware, the 19-year-old has handled the situation maturely.
 
"That's the tough part of it," said Baertschi, who has 2 goals in three games since his recall. "Not everyone can do what I did so far here. I just got really lucky. It's an exciting time for me. I just enjoy it day-by-day. When I have to go back, I'll go back and do the same thing in Portland."
 
Here's the projected lineup for the Flames:

Alex Tanguay - Matt Stajan - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos - Greg Nemisz - Blake Comeau
Sven Baertschi - Roman Horak - Guillaume Desbiens
 
Jay Bouwmeester - Cory Sarich
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Derek Smith - Anton Babchuk
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
 
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 2:26 PM

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

Sharks can swim back into West's top eight

Less than 24 hours after defeating the Edmonton Oilers to collect a pair of key points, the San Jose Sharks will try for a sweep of Alberta on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
 
The ninth-place Sharks can vault themselves into seventh with a win over the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. A win will not come easy with the Flames also battling for their playoff lives. Calgary trails the Sharks by just one point heading into the contest.
 
The Sharks, who are just 3-5-2 in their past 10 games, have a game in hand over the Flames, three more than eighth-place Colorado Avalanche and two over the Phoenix Coyotes, who hold down the seventh spot in the West.
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Sharks:

Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane CloweLogan coutureTommy Wingels
Daniel WinnikDominic MooreTorrey Mitchell
Andrew DesjardinsMichal HandzusTJ Galiardi
 
Dan BoyleMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas MurrayBrent Burns
Jason DemersColin White
 
Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 2:08 PM

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

Calgary's Comeau could return for critical contest

CALGARY – Blake Comeau won’t admit to watching the out-of-town scoreboard as the Calgary Flames attempt to chase down a playoff berth.
 
Comeau, who could be back for Calgary's game Tuesday with the San Jose Sharks after missing four with a shoulder injury, would prefer to take care of his own backyard instead.
 
“I don’t know how much we’re paying attention to it,” Comeau said. “We play a lot of the teams we’re in the race with still and I think if we take care of ourselves we’ll be alright.”
 
Trailing the Colorado Avalanche by just two points for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, Flames coach Brent Sutter gathers everyone is keeping one eye on what other teams are doing around them, whether they’ll admit it or not.
 
“I think they all watch it, they just tell you differently,” Sutter said. “I find it hard to believe that no one isn’t keeping track on what other teams are doing too. Obviously we need to take care of our own business because everything else is irrelevant unless we do.”
 
 With the Sharks in town, Calgary has the opportunity to not only better posture in the playoff picture, but can also hinder San Jose’s chances. Just one point separates the two clubs in the standings.
 
“It seems like the last month we’ve had a lot of those games,” Comeau said. “We know how important this game is. It’s not going to come easy. It’s an important game for them as well. We’re going to have to be ready for a playoff-type atmosphere for this game.”
 
That could make the perfect setting for Comeau’s return.
 
“No one wants to be sitting in the stands watching so I’m excited to get back,” he said. “I feel good. The end decision is with Brent. I’m going to prepare like I’m in tonight but we’ll see what happens.”
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Flames:
 
Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenDavid Moss
Alex TanguayMatt StajanJarome Iginla
Sven BaertschiTom KostopoulosBlake Comeau
Guillaume Desbiens/Krys KolanosRoman HorakGreg Nemisz
 
Jay BouwmeesterCory Sarich
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
Anton BabchukDerek Smith
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Friday, 03.09.2012 / 3:23 PM

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

Revved-up Baertschi ready for NHL debut

CALGARY -- Sven Baertschi has had two nights to mull over his National Hockey League debut with the Calgary Flames.
 
He didn't get much sleep in either of them.
 
The Portland Winterhawks standout admitted that, with his first game just hours away, catching up on sleep during his afternoon nap isn't likely.
 
"It's really hard to describe how I feel right now," Baertschi said. "It's pure excitement and a little bit nervous, but I'm pretty sure I won't be able to nap this afternoon. I'm just going to lay in bed and try to relax and settle things down."
 
An emergency recall from the Western Hockey League after a rash of injuries has ravaged the Flames' lineup, Baertschi is getting his professional career underway sooner than expected. It hasn't allowed the Langenthal, Switzerland product much time to prepare.
 
That's fine, said the reigning WHL player of the week.
 
"Probably better because it's my dream," Baertschi said. "I'm just a couple hours away and it's a really exciting time. It's the same as celebrating Christmas with your family."
 
Captain Jarome Iginla is interested in seeing what kind of youthful exuberance Baertschi will bring in his first taste of the big leagues.
 
"I wouldn't be too surprised if you see him out there a lot," Iginla said. "It's nice to see the young guys bring that enthusiasm and energy and excitement. On the guys, we build on it."
 
Baertschi is expected to play on a line with fellow Flames' first-round pick Greg Nemisz and veteran Tom Kostopoulos. Kostopolous, who played in his 600th NHL game in Tuesday's win over the Montreal Canadiens, will do what he can to keep the call-up level.
 
"I'll be yapping in his ear all game about nothing important, but everyone here just wants him to have fun and relax and enjoy it as much as possible," Kostopoulos said. "Sometimes talking too much is counterproductive. I'll help him out when I can, but we all just want to see him play and see what he can do."
 
The mandate for Baertschi from coach Brent Sutter is simple -- enjoy.
 
"Number one is I want him to enjoy the fact that this is his first professional game," Sutter said. "It's something I want him to remember and have good memories about it."
 
And undoubtedly, sweet dreams.
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Posted On Friday, 03.09.2012 / 3:03 PM

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

Flames get first look at Jets

CALGARY -- It's been nearly 16 years since the old Winnipeg Jets made their last visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
 
So understandably, when the Calgary Flames host the new version of the Jets on Friday night, tickets are at a premium -- even for players, according to Olli Jokinen.
 
"Team service guy Sean (O'Brien) sent us a text message last night that we have to put our ticket orders in today at 10 o'clock," Jokinen said. "That never happens. I guess it's a pretty hot ticket tonight."
 
Which means the 'Dome could be rocking, and not necessarily in favor of the Flames. With that in mind, defenseman Cory Sarich isn't about to give Winnipeg any help.
 
"I had a few Jets fans coming out of the woodworks seeing if I can get them a couple tickets," Sarich said. "Well, if they're cheering for that team then they're paying for tickets."
 
All joking aside, the Flames universally agree it's great to see the storied city get a team back in the National Hockey League.
 
"It's great," Jokinen said. "It's good to see them back on the hockey map and it's good to see them do well. They're playing in a market where people actually know about hockey and care about hockey."
 
But Jokinen warned that the Flames, who are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase, aren't about to give the Jets a warm welcome in Calgary.
 
"This is just a game for us at the end of the day," he said. "All that matters is to get two points. We're at the point of the season we can't really worry about who we play against. The biggest thing for us is to play our game and do things right and stick with our team structure and get two points and move on."
 
Here's the Flames projected lineup:
 
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Alex Tanguay - Matt Stajan - Jarome Iginla
Sven Baertschi - Greg Nemisz - Tom Kostopoulos
Guillaume Desbiens - Roman Horak - Krys Kolanos
 
Derek Smith - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Friday, 03.09.2012 / 2:37 PM

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

Jets hoping for home-ice advantage in Calgary

CALGARY -- At home, they're nearly unbeatable.
 
But on the road, the Winnipeg Jets have failed to find the winning formula.
 
One of the reasons the Jets have compiled a 21-10-4 record at the MTS Centre is the boisterous crowd that has pushed them to be one of hockey’s best home teams.
 
Facing the Calgary Flames on the second half of a two-game road swing, the Jets are hoping they can use crowds on the road to their advantage as well as they push for a playoff berth.
 
"Our fans are a passionate bunch and they seem to be in all the Canadian rinks and a few of the American rinks, too, and you can definitely hear it when they're there," Tanner Glass said. "I think they're trying to get our road record up a bit, because they sure help us at home."
 
Just 11-18-4 on the road, the Jets will rely on a boisterous bunch in Calgary to simulate a home atmosphere. They may just find it in Alberta.
 
"My understanding is that some people have left Winnipeg to come west and we've run into them in Vancouver and now we're in Calgary, so the support seems to be everywhere, we just have to visualize we're at home," coach Claude Noel said.
 
With eight of their remaining 14 games away from Winnipeg, the ninth-place Jets need to remedy their road woes in a hurry.
 
"We have more road games than home, so we're going to have to find a way to do it," said goaltender Chris Mason, who confirmed he will be backing up Ondrej Pavelec in Calgary.
 
"It's definitely been tough on the road for us," he said. "At home we've done well and really fed off the crowd. We get that support on the road as well. It's harder to win on the road, and that means details are that much more important. That's something going down the stretch we're going to have to pay huge attention to."
 
Upping the road record could be the difference between playing in the playoffs and ending the season early.
 
"For us, we're looking at it as a new time," Noel said. "Closing down the end of these last eight games, if we can get to .500 or a game over that I think we'll be happy with that."
 
Here's the Jets' projected lineup:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen
 
Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones
 
Ondrej Pavalec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 5:26 PM

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

Flames recall junior Baertschi on emergency basis

CALGARY -- It's been a sensational week for Calgary Flames prospect Sven Baertschi.

Two days removed from earning Western Hockey League player of the week honors after collecting 8 goals and 10 points in four games, the Flames' first-round pick was summoned to the big club on Wednesday.

With injuries piling up -- most recently to Tim Jackman in Tuesday's 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens -- the Flames summoned Baertschi, the 13th pick in 2011, on an emergency recall from the Portland Winterhawks.

"Sven had an impressive training camp with us this year and legitimately could have been part of our opening night roster," Flames general manager Jay Feaster said in a statement. "We elected to send him back to Portland prior to the start of the season because we did not project him spending the entire season in Calgary. In light of the way Sven has performed this season in the WHL, and given our current injury situation, we feel Sven is the right player to be recalled to Calgary at this time."

The Flames were able to recall Baertschi from junior based on an agreement between the NHL and CHL that states if a team is on its third emergency situation, the club can recall a player from major junior.

With a trio already recalled from the AHL's Abbotsford Heat in Greg Nemisz, Krys Kolanos and Guillaume Desbiens, Featser opted with the 19-year-old Baertschi.

"It's a honor," Baertschi told the Flames' website. "I'm really grateful."

Baertschi is expected to make his NHL debut Friday when the Flames host the Winnipeg Jets. He has 33 goals and 94 points in 47 games this season to lead the WHL in points-per-game. In 113 career games at the junior level, Baertschi has 179 points.
 
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Quote of the Day

It was a different game in the past, that's for sure. It's not exactly what I was expecting but I think the experience paid off for a lot of our guys that realized what it takes in a Game 7. Realistically the effort we put forward, we might not even had to put 60 [minutes], but we just couldn't get a couple bounces to go our way and we just kept pushing.

— Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby on Washington's play in Game 7 vs. the Islanders