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Flames use short bench

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
Adrian Aucoin could only shake his head.

Asked if he had ever, in his 13 seasons in the National Hockey League, seen a team use just 15 skaters in a game.

"No. In the old days there wwould be like eight extras," said Aucoin, whose Flames iced 15 skaters and two goals for their Battle of Alberta in Edmonton.


The reason for the shortage is a combination of injuries and salary cap space, the latter of which there is no wiggle room.

Forward Curtis Glencross and defenceman Dion Phaneuf did not dress against the Oilers, They were out of the line-up with undisclosed injuries but a team official said they are "hopeful" for Saturday's rematch against the Oilers at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The Flames had recalled John Negrin, fresh out of junior hockey in the Western Hockey League, in case Phaneuf was unable to play.

In all the Flames have nine players injured, including five defencemen. They are Rhett Warrener, Cory Sarich, Robyn Regehr, Mark Giordano and Phaneuf.

Forwards on the sideline include Rene Bourque, Glencross, Wayne Primeau and Andre Roy.

It was the first time since 1986 that an NHL team used just 15 skaters.
Aucoin has been paired with Regehr for much of the season but lately has been getting a new partner on the blueline just about every game.

"Our organization has done really well with (associate and defence coach) Jim Playfair having everyone play the same from the top to the bottom," said Aucoin, noting young players stepping in have been able to fit right into the system.

Friday saw three youngsters on the blueline: Matt Pelech, Negrin and Adam Pardy, Of the three Pardy, who has been with the Flames all season, has the most experience.

Playing with the depleted line-up might have been a hindrance to the Flames chase for a Northwest Division crown. They entered action Friday two points behind Vancouver with a sweep of the Oilers in this weekend home-and-home series guaranteeing them the division title and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Aucoin, for one, was philosophical. The home ice advantage would be nice, but it's not critical, he noted.

"If you look at the big picture we are in the playoffs and we have a chance to win the Cup," he said.

"Come playoff time a lot of crazy things can happen. A lot of teams can did down deeper, Everybody has a chance."

Following the game, a 5-1 loss to Edmonton, defenceman Adam Pardy said the problem wasn't fitness.

"It felt a little bit like peewee with three lines and six defencemen. We have a fit team so the guys can handle the extra ice time. We just couldn't get the puck into the net."

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