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Preview: Flames @ Jets

by Jason Johnson / Calgary Flames

-- The Calgary Flames wind down the pre-season with the first of a home-and-home set with the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at the MTS Centre.

It's expected the Flames will ice a roster for Saturday's contest at Scotiabank Saddledome which will mirror that of the one on opening day so for a crop of Calgary youngsters, it's a chance for one last audition.

The injury to TJ Brodie has unexpectedly opened up an additional post on the blueline.

"There’s a hole with Brodie’s injury on left defence," said Bob Hartley, who has some tough decisions ahead with every position. "There’s a few spots that, they aren’t quite open, they are battles. At the same time, we’ve proved in the past years that whoever deserves it, management always finds a way to reward the right people. That’s our plan again. Evaluation process is minute to minute right now."

The Flames summoned a pair of defenceman Wednesday -- Patrick Sieloff and Kenney Morrison -- from the Stockton Heat. The move was likely made to ensure Hartley could rest his top four and get one last good look at the younger guys.

The competition to grab one of the few available spots is fierce. But don't rule out any surprises when it comes to a younger player.

It's the youth that's fueling the ship, Hartley suggests.

"The past couple of years, starting with [Monahan] and then [Gaudreau], and with all those kids that came up. It’s creating a very competitive environment and not only are they competing, but they are performing.

"Obviously, combined with the leadership of the veterans, the trades, and the free agents, it’s a different set up. It makes the decisions and the competitions much harder."

After handing the Colorado Avalanche a 2-0 defeat Tuesday with a strong, veteran-laden group, a handful of veterans merged with a larger group of younger players and rookies will round out the lineup in Winnipeg.

Micheal Ferland, Mason Raymond, Mikael Backlund, Deryk Engelland, Joe Colborne, Sam Bennett, Drew Shore, David Jones, Lance Bouma, Sieloff and Morrison are among the names that made the trip to Manitoba for the final exhibition game on the road.

Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Michael Frolik and Matt Stajan are some of the regulars that stayed back in Calgary.

Netminders Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio made the trek to Winnipeg and it's expected Ortio will go the distance in goal on Thursday.

The decision to determine who is going to tend the Calgary goal when the calendar turns to Oct. 7 is not getting any easier.

Ortio posted a shutout in his last start against the Avalanche while Hiller and Karri Ramo combined to blank Colorado on Tuesday.

It's a good problem to have.

"No one is giving a goal. It’s certainly not facilitating our decisions," Hartley said. "We have two more games going on and we sit every day. We look at every position and we have our evaluation system. I think the coaching staff, management, we all sit in and we try to come up with the best possible decision."

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