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Flames expect Backlund to rebound next season

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
Mikeal Backlund played just 41 games this season due to a broken finger and upper body injury.

CALGARY, AB -- There is no doubt Calgary Flames pivot Mikael Backlund is eager to put the 2011-12 campaign behind him.

The 23 year-old was limited to 41 games due to injuries (a broken finger and an upper body malady, respectively) and recorded just four goals and 11 points.

"Backs is a guy who has a lot of work to do," Flames General Manager Jay Feaster said on Monday afternoon. "We really thought that at the end of the previous season, had taken a big step. He had a good World Championship and then a good start to training camp.

"(He) got hurt and never really came back the same way."

The forward's first game came on Nov. 11 and he went 10 games before he was able to find the back of the net. He was never able to find a rhythm and his role with the club was constantly in flux due to his inconsistency.

"I'm not sure if it's physical," Feaster said of Backlund's struggles, "as much as maybe it's the mental aspect of the game, the battling aspect mentally."

Feaster acknowledged Backlund would have likely spent some time with the Abbotsford Heat during the season if the team hadn't suffered so many injuries in the middle of the year.

"We had a lot of conversations and a lot of very candid discussions with him throughout the season. There were times he was ticketed for an American League stint because he didn't require waivers at the time to go down."

The Flames extended qualifying offers to five of their eight restricted free agents on Monday with Backlund receiving one of the offers. Feaster is looking forward to seeing how he rebounds after a summer of intense training.

"It's a very important off-season for him to get ready to try to have an impact on this hockey team.

"Clearly, he's a talented young player - young being the operative word, I think. There was no way that we were going to allow him to get away for nothing."

Backlund set career-high's in goals (10), assists (15), points (25) and games played (73) in the 2010-11 season. He was drafted by the Flames in the first round (24th overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft.

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