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.”
Alex Tanguay – Matt Stajan – Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross – Olli Jokinen – Tom Kostopoulos
Lee Stempniak – David Moss – Blake Comeau
Greg Nemisz – Roman Horak – Guillaume Desbiens
Jay Bouwmeester – Derek Smith
Mark Giordano – Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich – Anton Babchuk