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