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Blog: Inside the Game

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
As pre-season hockey goes, well, Tuesday was pre-season hockey. The timing isn't quite there. The passes not always on the tape. The shots, sometimes a little wide.

Nonetheless, hockey was back at the Pengrowth Saddledome as the Calgary Flames tangled with the visiting Florida Panthers in their first exhibition game of the season.

Jarome Iginla, with a neat move inside on the power play, just as neatly roofed a shot under the bar to give the Flames a 2-1 lead at 19:16 of the second period.

Dustin Boyd, picking up a rebound in front, scored at 13:02 of the second for the Flames. Boyd assisted on Iginla's earier goal.

The Panthers, however, scored twice in the third period to claim a 3-2 win in the exhibition match.

Head coach Mike Keenan said he was not concerned with the loss but rather evaluating the players in the line-up.

"It's an evaluation process. It's an opportunity to look at people under game competition," sadi Keenan.

The Flames play three more games this week, in Winnipeg against Phoenix on Wednesday, against Phoenix at home on Thursday and one more time against Florida Friday at the 'Dome.

It was a solid rub out of Jay Bouwmeester by Flames newcomer Todd Bertuzzi in the second period just inside the Flames blueline.

The hit drew a reaction from the 'Dome crowd and stood as one of the bigger collisions of the evening -- Bertuzzi is 6'3 and Bouwmeester is no shrinking violet at 6'4' and both tip the scales at more than 200 pounds.

Wayne Primeau, Eric Nystrom and Brandon Prust comprised the energy line for the Flames against the Panthers.

One of the key areas the Flames hope to shore up this season are the third and fourth lines both from the standpoint of providing tough to play against checking lines as well as some scoring touch.

They got the latter from the Nystrom-Primeau-Prust line, one that you might see head into the season as a group.

Three forwards stood out  -- and they were all on the same line.  Jamie Lundmark, Dustin Boyd  and David Moss showed some chemistry in the early going and created several scoring chances.

Boyd was rewarded with a goal in the second with assists going to Moss and Lundmark. But the trio did more than score -- they had a strong forecheck all game and were quick to punce on the turnovers they created on the forecheck.

Moss and Boyd are fighting for regular spots on the Flames while Lundmark returns after playing overseas for a year. A former high draft pick, Lundmark has never really found a home in the NHL and looks as though he wants to find one.

"I feel way better with the puck. It's like night and day," said Boyd, who was a part-time player with the Flames last season.

Curtis McIlhinney, who is slated to be Miikka Kiprusoff's back-up this season, got the start in net and was steady most of the game.

He caught a bad break when the Panthers scored in the second period when his rebound bounced off a Flames defender onto the stick of xxxx who tucked the puck into a virtually empty net. On the winning goal Jay Bouwmeester was able to tuck it shortside.

"I thought, for the most part, he played a steady game for us," said head coach Mike Keenan.

McIhinney stopped 22 of 25 shots he faced.

Swedish centre Mikael Backlund started his first NHL game between Todd Bertuzzi and Jarome Iginla and, while he looked a little nervous in the early going, he settled down and played in a number of different situations, including four-on-four.

He just missed on a one-timer on a late power play in the first period on a cross-ice feed from Iginla.

While he was sharp in the offensive zone, his defensive coverage needs work, said head coach Mike Keenan.

"I think he held his own for the most part," said Keenan. "He turned the puck over in the defensive zone and showed some inexperience. He showed some great moves and skill, too. It was certainly a challenging game for him playing with two big players like that. I believe players like Mikael deserve a chance to play with players of that calibre."

Matthew Lombardi, Jamie Lundmark and Dustin Boyd all had five shots on net for the Flames who had a total of 26...Newcomer Rene Bourque led the Flames hit parade with five of the Flames 24 hits...Lombardi was the top face-off man winning nine and losing just three...

Couldn't help but notice that Todd Bertuzzi was wearing an assistant captain's A on his jersey. Very similar to another veteran from last year as Owen Nolan was given an A by the coaching staff. We'll see if it sticks for the regular season. Bertuzzi, by the way, was not booed by the Saddledome faithful.

And he just missed on a breakaway in the third period as his backhand went over the net.

"I got a little too much wood on it," he said. "The first game is the toughest. It takes some time. You are finding your linemates, you are finding your feet and you are finding the puck."
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