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Flames expect significant push in final camp days

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- The jobs are there.

The bottom push, to this point, hasn't been.

Not to the satisfaction of Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan.

"I'd like to see more," Gulutzan said. "I'd like to see more bottom push. It's tough with the bottom when you talk about your bottom-six guys. They all go hard. They all work real hard. Sometimes it's hard for them, just by virtue of where they are to separate. But all in all, the bottom guys, the bottom-six guys have played well.

"I'd just like to see somebody grab one of those spots, as a PTO guy."

The Flames have 31 players remaining in camp after assigning defenceman Kenney Morrison to Stockton of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

Among those 31 are 18 forwards vying for a dozen positions on Calgary's opening-night roster.

The Flames have two games remaining on their pre-season docket -- Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes and Thursday against the Vancovuer Canucks -- before breaking into a week of practice in advance of an Oct. 12 start date at the Edmonton Oilers to kick off the 2016-17 season.

The pair of exhibition skates will go a long, long way to determining who fills Calgary's vacated positions on that day.

"You really want someone to rise above everybody else and take that job," assistant general manager Craig Conroy said. "I don't know if I've seen quite that. I've seen some good games, but has anybody risen and just said, 'That's my spot … I'm going to take it' … I don't think I've seen that yet.

"But we have two games. There's going to be more of the NHL guys. It's crunch time. These guys are pros. They are going to grab it. They're going to show us down the stretch. We need them to take that decision out of our hands and they make the decision for us.

"Gully and the coaching staff has made it very aware. We have two games left. If you're here to make the team it's time to make the team. There's not going to be a tomorrow. There's not going to be a next day. We have to cut down the roster and make some decisions. You guys make the decisions for us.

"These are veteran guys and even the young kids…when you get to this level you know what it's all about. I expect these to be our most competitive, hardest working games for sure."

Separation has started.

It's up to those doing the separating to widen the gap.

"I think there's some separation now, between some guys," Gulutzan said. "That's a good thing. You don't want the waters all muddied when you're looking at these things. You want guys to separate themselves out.

"I think I've seen some separation."

Conroy too.

"I've noticed a few guys," he said. "I'm not going to name names, but I have noticed guys. I've noticed them in spurts. Has there been someone that, yeah, just completely blown you away? Not that I've seen yet.

"But there's two games left." 

The message, with two games left, is simple. 

Leave it out there.

And earn a job. 

"By now they've been here a while," Conroy said. "They know what's at stake. You expect their A-game. You expect their A-game. These guys need to step up, and whoever it is … that's what we're hoping for.

"They're all great guys.

"They're all in shape.

"They all want to do well. 

"They want to play in the NHL.

"But there's only so many spots.

"Take a job."

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