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Bennett, Flames ready for Battle Of Alberta

Sam Bennett is expected to draw back into the lineup on Saturday night when the Flames host the Oilers

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY - More than 24 hours are left to kill before the back end of Hockey Night in Canada's Saturday doubleheader and already Sam Bennett is chomping at the bit, straining to wriggle off the leash, to be released from the cage.

Bennett's gaze - level, unblinking - left no doubt Friday as to his feelings as he stood in front of the Flames backdrop to address his caught-off-guard banishment to the press box for Thursday's loss to Nashville.

"It was,'' Bennett acknowledged, "really tough."

"Obviously I want to be out there and do everything I can to help my team win.

"That's hard to do from the stands."

Not that's he's prone to vertigo or anything of the sort but watching from 200 feet up is a new sensation for No. 93.

When asked if, in his recollection, he'd been a healthy scratch before, ever, the instant reply encompassed two letters, and two letters only:


You got the feeling an outbreak of psoriasis or a particularly nasty case of shingles might've been preferable.

"Obviously,'' Bennett said, "I've got to be on my toes. It's a good league.

"One game and you can be out of the lineup."

One game, and you can be back in, too.

So after a one night to get re-amped and re-calibrate, Bennett is expected to draw back into the lineup Saturday - although "I anticipate it,'' was as far as coach Glen Gulutzan would go post-optional skate Friday - to face those dastardly Edmonton Oilers in a Battle of Alberta just now in the process of being jolted being back to life by a deliriously-talented array of precocious youth - both sides - armed with provincial defibrillator paddles.

Bennett would certainly be included among that number.

"Frustrating,'' is how he described Thursday's experience. "Obviously no one wants to be out of the lineup so it's tough to take.

"I wasn't very happy with (the decision)."

The Oilers have prevailed in each of the three regular-season meetings between the sides, most recently a rollicking 2-1 shootout white-knuckler a week ago at Rogers Place.

Saturday represents the Flames last crack to get some of their own back.

"It would mean a lot to everybody here,'' agreed Gulutzan. "The last game I thought we did enough to get a point.

"We have to do more now to get two."

The game, as Holmes said to Watson, is afoot.

"They've got us each time,'' chimed in Lethbridge-born Kris Versteeg. "So we're hungry.

"We're coming tomorrow to beat them.

"Both teams have youth that emerged as superstars. That's great to watch. The fans have two teams in the hunt for playoffs, so it always amplifies the games, makes them more exciting.

"Should be good."

Video: Flames are prepping for Saturday's Battle Of Alberta

A 9-4 December has given way to an erratic January full of fits and starts, alternating wins and losses.

"You're going to have those stretches,'' reasoned Versteeg. "We're going to have find a way to string a few together, though, to start furthering ourselves from guys below us, if we're going to give ourselves a chance to get in the playoffs.

"You can't lose two in a row, and we've been finding ways to avoid that. Once you dig yourselves a hole, get out as quick as possible.

"But now it's about getting the ball rolling and finding ways to put two, three, four, five (wins) together."

Running on a treadmill, these Flames realize, isn't going to get them where they want to be come early April.

"I think half the mentality is we've been sitting in a playoff spot for a good 40 days here,'' opined Gulutzan. "What we have to realize is that we are a team that needs to start coming to the rink believing, acting, playing like we are a team that should in the playoffs.

"We need to know that every game is important for us. We have to start acting that way."

The Edmonton Oilers. Saturday night. Coast-to-coast. With actual playoff implications.

Doesn't get much tastier than that.

Not that Sam Bennett would need any added impetus …

"Watching,'' he reiterated on the eve of resumption of hosilities, "wasn't fun. Everything about (Thursday) wasn't fun.

"I'm going to do everything I can to stay in the lineup."

Heads up, interlopers from the north.

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