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At the Rink blog

Wotherspoon latest Flames player to make NHL debut

Friday, 03.07.2014 / 2:56 PM

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

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Wotherspoon latest Flames player to make NHL debut

CALGARY -- As Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley said, one's misfortune is another's opportunity.

With injuries plaguing his roster, Hartley will ice a lineup Friday against the New York Islanders that will feature eight rookies, the most first-year players to skate in a single game for the Flames since Dec. 10, 1996.

"Injuries, we can talk about them all day," Hartley said. "There's nothing we can do about this. We don't like it. You never want to see guys laying down on the table in the medical room. But at the same time we're playing a contact sport. It [injuries] opens doors to younger players to come in and grab ice time, grab roles, grab responsibility and fulfill their childhood dreams. I think it's great."

Hartley has had to juggle his lineup substantially of late with forwards Kevin Westgarth, David Jones and Jiri Hudler and defenseman Dennis Wideman all sustaining injuries in the past week. He hasn't had forward Matt Stajan either due to personal reasons.

It's bred plenty of opportunity for Calgary's prospects.

The rebuilding Flames have had six players make their NHL debuts this season. Defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon, recalled Thursday from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League, will make it seven, and the fourth in the past nine days, when he suits up for his first NHL game Friday.

"We turned a corner last year," Hartley said. "We made a commitment. Now, we still have ways to go, but at the same time I think that we're seeing a bunch of positive things going around our organization."

Wotherspoon, selected in the second round (No. 57) in the 2011 NHL Draft, is the latest prospect to earn a chance for the Flames after Corban Knight, Joni Ortio and Markus Granlund all made their debuts since the NHL schedule resumed after the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"It's amazing," said Wotherspoon, who has nine points and a plus-13 rating in 48 AHL games. "I can't believe being here right now. I didn't expect it too much but I kept working hard, trying to develop my game and I'm glad this opportunity came.

"I'm excited. It's every child's dream to play in the NHL and I'm happy to get this opportunity."

The 20-year-old joins Ortio, Granlund, Knight, Paul Byron, Ben Hanowski, Max Reinhart and Joey MacDonald as players with the Flames who have played at least 16 games with the Heat this season.

That familiarity has made Wotherspoon's shift into Calgary's dressing room easier.

"It actually helps a lot," he said. "Having those guys on your team all year, it makes it a lot more comfortable for sure."

Ortio, a veteran of two NHL games, took his own first-game experience in offering advice.

"I don’t have too much experience to give out advice, but I told Corban the other night just enjoy and do your thing," he said. "That's what I tried to do in my first game. That's pretty much all you can do. Do what you've been doing the whole year. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Just try to take it all in."

The Islanders did not have a morning skate after playing Wednesday at the Edmonton Oilers.

Here are the projected lineups for the Islanders and Flames:

ISLANDERS

Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck

Anders Lee - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald

Mike Halmo - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin

Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky

Brian Strait - Travis Hamonic

Calvin De Haan - Matt Donovan

Anders Nilsson

Evgeni Nabokov

Scratched: Radek Martinek, Matt Carkner, Eric Boulton

Injured: John Tavares (knee)

FLAMES

Mike Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - Lance Bouma

TJ Galiardi - Sean Monahan - Joe Colborne

Max Reinhart - Markus Granlund - Paul Byron

Ben Hanowski - Corban Knight - Brian McGrattan

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Chris Butler

Ladislav Smid - Tyler Wotherspoon

Joni Ortio

Joey MacDonald

Scratched: Matt Stajan

Injured: Curtis Glencross (high ankle sprain), David Jones (upper body), Kevin Westgarth (upper body),  Jiri Hudler (lower body), Dennis Wideman (upper body), Karri Ramo (lower body)

Quote of the Day

It's time we got a break. People that have watched us, I'm sure they said, 'Finally, some things are going our way.' We'll take the breaks when they go our way.

— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien after a 3-2 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday to snap a three-game losing streak
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