CALGARY, AB -- It’s been a long time since Paul Byron
skated in a game at Scotiabank Saddledome.
When the Calgary Flames host the Vancouver Canucks tonight, it will be Byron's first action at the ‘Dome since his season was cut short due to an injury-plagued campaign last year.
“It’s a really exciting night for sure,” said Byron, who signed a one-year contract in the summer. “I’ve only played one game since February last year, so I’m definitely excited to get going here.”
The injuries last season were aplenty for Byron -- a broken toe, an injured wrist and a sports hernia.
That's all in the rear view mirror, though.
“I’m 100-percent healthy, I’m pretty confident out there," Byron continued. "So is the coaching staff and the medical team, so there’s no issues at all. I finally feel 100-percent, so I’m looking forward to tonight.”
With plenty of competition in the forward group, Byron knows that it will take a lot of hard work to make the roster.
His attitude is to prove his worth each and every time he puts on the jersey.
“I feel the same way I do every time I put the gear on and go on the ice. It’s always a test; it’s always a battle," he said. "Every day here is a test to see what your value is to the team and what you can bring. It’s no different whether you are playing a pre-season game, a playoff game, or a practice. I have the same mentality no matter what and that’s never going to change.”
For Patrick Sieloff, tonight will also be his first pre-season action of 2015.
Sieloff himself has been bit hard by the injury bug since he was drafted by Calgary in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft.
“For me, the past couple years, dealing with injuries, not last year but the year before, getting over that hump from a mental side was big for me," said Sieloff, who only appeared in two games during the 2013-14 season because of a staph infection. "Now it’s just a matter of playing and getting my feel back. Last year it was almost trying to not get hurt because I was hurt so long. Now it’s just a matter of playing and I feel great out there.”
After skating in 48 AHL contests last season, the 21-year-old is targeting an NHL roster spot on the Flames blueline but knows he's in tough.
The injury to TJ Brodie has created an opportunity and Sieloff is hoping to take advantage.
“You never want to see anyone go down early in camp, especially top guys, but when that happens it does open the door for other guys and you have to grab it,” Sieloff said. “For me it would be my first pre-season game this year and I’m just looking forward to playing my game and keeping things simple. Just playing my game and not getting outside of that.”
He knows what he will need to do to leave an impression.
“For me, I’m not the guy that’s going to go out there and score goals,” Sieloff said. “I’m going to be the guy who’s penalty killing, playing hard, shutting down top lines, and making it hard on them. Making a good first pass, good gaps, and a simple game. That’s the strongest game I can play.”
With less than two weeks until the puck drops to open the 2015-16 NHL season, it's crunch time for Kenny Agostino.
The Flames are on the verge of announcing a whole slew of cuts and the competition to grab one of the few forward spots available is intense. 31 forwards remain in camp and Calgary will need to find a way to shave that down to 14 prior to Oct. 7.
That makes meaningless pre-season games meaningful for a handful of hopefuls, including Agostino, who will skate on a line with two of his AHL mates tonight against the Vancouver Canucks -- Garnet Hathaway and Bill Arnold.
"I think it’s a great opportunity for me tonight and all the guys in the lineup," said Agostino, who led the Adorindack Flames in scoring last season as a rookie with 43 points in 67 games. "They made it very clear that there’s going to be big cuts on Sunday morning so this is a big chance to perform and I’m excited for it."
Agostino found his way into eight regular season NHL contests at the tail end of the 2013-14 season after he captured an NCAA national championship with the Yale Bulldogs. The Flames were getting a rebuild underway and with the playoffs completely out of sight they decided to audition as many of their prospects as possible. Agostino was a beneficiary.
Although he didn't see any NHL action last season, the 22-year-old benefited greatly from a season of pro hockey and credits the coaching staff in Adirondack with rounding out his game.
"I think I’ve definitely evolved into more of a 200-foot player for sure," Agostino said. "My offense abilities have sort of carried over to pro hockey. Last year I sort of figured that out but I think the coaching staff have done a good job at making me a good 200-foot player – working in the defensive zone and the offensive zone."
FORWARDS: Linden Vey, Brandon Prust, Derek Dorsett, Brandon Sutter, Ronald Kenins, Blair Jones, Sven Baertschi, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Alex Freisen, Carter Bancks, Wacey Hamilton and Jake Virtanen
DEFENCE: Luca Sbisa, Yannick Weber, Frank Corrado, Andrey Pedan, Matt Bartkowski, Taylor Fedun
GOALTENDERS: Jacob Markstrom and Richard Bachman
ON THE SHELF
Flames: Jakub Nakladal (upper body), Ladislav Smid (neck), TJ Brodie (hand), and Jon Gillies (concussion protocol).
Canucks: Chris Higgins (fractured foot).
Tonight's pre-season game can be seen on Sportsnet One. Radio coverage on Sportsnet 960 The FAN. @NHLFlames will also be live-tweeting tonight's game.