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Young lineup will take to the ice tonight against Oilers, looking to standout and impress coaches

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

The keys have been turned over to the kids. 

And for many, it's one last chance to impress.

"The clock's ticking," said head coach Bill Peters following Friday's pre-flight practice at WinSport. "We've really got only three games (left) that are auditions, and Game 8 is basically what we think is going to be our opening-night roster. 

"We can't get everybody as many games as we'd like, so when you get an opportunity to get in, or you get an opportunity to play on the powerplay, take advantage of it."

With cut-down day looming, the Flames are sending a much younger team up the highway to face the Edmonton Oilers tonight as both squads hit the halfway point of the pre-season. 

Two-thirds of the Flames' top line will stay back, along with many of the vets that helped dispatch the visiting San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. 

That means another, long-hard look for those auditioning for NHL employment on a full-time basis. 

Dillon Dube, Alan Quine, Devante Smith-Pelly, Glenn Gawdin, Zac Rinaldo and Ryan Lomberg comprise half of the Flames' forward corps, while Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone, Alexander Yelesin and Brandon Davidson will suit up on the blueline.  

"One game can change everything," said Davidson, a former Oilers draft pick who spent parts of four seasons up in the Alberta capital. "You need to leave a good impression and a good taste in the mouth of the coaching staff. Cuts come fairly quick in this business, and you're only as good as good as your last game. For a guy like me, I need to push for it and make sure that tonight is a good effort."

The Taber, Alta., native signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flames back on July 1, and is looking to gain traction back home on the prairies after bouncing around with the Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks over the past three years. 

But despite playing in 162 games over the course of his career to this point, the 28-year-old feels like he has plenty more to give. 



"You look around and there are still a lot of bodies around," Davidson said of the 53 players left in camp. "It's important to get into this game, here, right now. I want to showcase more than what I have (to this point). In this game tonight, I hope to put my best foot forward and make some easier decisions on the coaching staff."

Davidson played in Monday's pre-season curtain-raiser out west in Victoria. It was a good chance to get the cobwebs out, but it wasn't - by any stretch - the kind of make-or-break outing that will lock him into the final, 23-man roster. 

Too early. 

But now, we're at the point where decisions are made. Tough ones. And with Stockton's training camp opening on Monday, it's clear tonight's efforts will go a long way to making them, for better or worse. 


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Like Davidson, Lomberg faces a similar reality up front.  

"It ultimately comes down to these games," declared Lomberg, who appeared in four battles with the big club last year, but spent the majority of the campaign with the Stockton Heat. 

"You try not to think about it (the pressure) too much. Just do your thing. What you prepare for all summer is upon us now, so I'm looking forward to playing my game tonight and showing that I can help the team win."

Lomberg, known mostly for his brawny, ground-and-pound qualities, can't think of a better stage.

"It's not going to be hard to get one up for this one, that's for sure," he laughed. 

"It certainly won't be hard to get physical. 

"It's a big night."

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