BANFF, AB -- When a team loses a member of their first line, the first reaction from the public comes in the form of panic.
Who is going to fill the void? Which rookie is going to have to be baptized by fire? Someone has to be called up from the farm, right?
When top line center Mikael Backlund suffered a broken finger on Sunday, those anxieties weren't felt by the Flames coaching staff or management. Sure, the young pivot is projected to miss six weeks after undergoing surgery on his finger but the team is optimistic the depth among the forward ranks will fill the hole left in Backlund's absence.
"It's one thing just to have depth but you want to have depth that can help you," head coach Brent Sutter said. "It's nice that you can take guys out of one line and move them up to a different line."
Line shuffling is one thing - one centerman can move through the lines or a winger can bounce up and down the lineup - but in this case, Sutter is referring to plucking a winger out of position and giving him a new job to do.
David Moss has been anointed the newest first line center and cannot wait to get the season started.
"I feel comfortable playing there," he told the assembled media on Tuesday. "We'll see how it goes ... Injuries happen. You show up and whatever line you're on, you go out there and play."
Initially, the move may look like a head-scratcher since Moss has performed admirably on the wing but a closer look reveals the logic behind it.
Some thought Backlund's injury would cause Brendan Morrison to return earlier than he was expected to but the Flames don't want to rush the veteran back into the lineup. He has been cleared for contact but general manager Jay Feaster has made it known he isn't in game-shape quite yet. The team refuses to rush him in terms of conditioning so he's out of the mix.
Sutter has experimented with placing Olli Jokinen in between Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay but that never quite worked out the way the team would have liked it to. The same goes for pivot Matt Stajan.
Roman Horak will play in his first NHL regular season game on Saturday and it would be extremely unfair to place that kind of pressure on the 20 year-old. He'll play on the third line, centering Rene Bourque and Niklas Hagman.
So the ever-versatile Moss will make the leap up - and over - to center the Flames top two wingers.
There was never any question about Moss' ability to hop into the role. While playing on the wing for majority of his career, he moonlighted as a centerman for a short stint last year. The trial run went well enough that during the off-season, Sutter had thrown the idea of placing Moss at center - well before Backlund was out of the running.
"I played with those guys a little bit last year so it's not something that's totally uncommon," Moss smiled. "I still try to play my game. In the offensive zone, obviously, those guys let their skills do the work and I try to create some space for them."
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