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Back in the mix

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Even though it is only the middle of November, one member of the Calgary Flames feels like it is December 24.

Head coach Brent Sutter confirmed on Thursday morning Mikael Backlund will play his first game of the season tomorrow night in Chicago.

"It's been a long time. I'm really excited," Backlund smiled. "It's almost like Christmas for me. I'm just really excited and pumped to go on this trip."

The pivot has been sidelined since early October with a broken finger. He underwent two surgeries on the digit but has been training for the vast majority of his recovery period.

"I feel ready," he said. "I've been working hard for a lot weeks now and have been practicing with the team this week. It feels good. I feel fresh and ready to go."

The forward did acknowledge he was experiencing some slight nervousness along with his excitement but feels those will die down once he gets a few shifts in.

"I'm going to be pretty nervous so I've just got to try to be calm and not get too nervous. I haven't played in a long time."

Before sustaining his injury, Backlund was slated for top line duty with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. The team has experimented with several centers between the two throughout the season but the coaching staff has yet to see the results they would like.

Backlund practiced with the two wingers on Thursday morning departed for Chicago, an indication he'll be playing with the duo tomorrow night.

"It's a big opportunity for me," the 22 year-old said. "It's two great players, been great, top players in the League for a long time. Experienced players. It will be a lot of fun to play with those guys if that's the case."

The Flames faltered in the faceoff circle on Tuesday night against Minnesota, winning only 35 percent of their draws. Backlund has been practicing faceoffs recently and feels confident that he will be able to help his team improve their win percentage.

However, he feels as though he has a metaphorical safety net when it comes to taking faceoffs thanks to his linemates.

"My finger is fine with it but it always helps a lot having Tangs and Iggy on both sides. They both can do faceoffs so it's good to know.

"That way it helps me to feel more confident. If I were uncomfortable or I'm losing, whatever the reason is, it's good to have those guys."

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