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Preview: Flames vs. Avalanche

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames received some good news on Monday morning.

Defenceman Jakub Nakladal and forward Mikael Backlund fully took part in Monday's practice and are likely candidates to dress for Tuesday's pre-season game against the Colorado Avalanche (7:00 PM MT, streamed on CalgaryFlames.com, Sportsnet 960 The FAN).

"It’s good. Nakladal is good to go, Backs is good to go," Bob Hartley stated. "We had some good news. It’s always a positive sign to be able to play some guys in some exhibition games before the season starts."

Nakladal suffered an upper body injury last Thursday when the Flames were squaring off against the Avalanche in Denver, taking a hit from John Mitchell in the corner in the early stages of the third period.

"I feel pretty good," he said after the Flames lengthy practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "No headache, no pain, no nothing, so I think it’s okay."

The Czech rearguard is one of 11 defencemen left in training camp. While five of the spots on the Flames blueline are filled with the likes of Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, and Deryk Engelland, there are still holes to fill and another door has opened due to Brodie's misfortune.

Brodie sustained a broken bone in his right hand last week and will be out 3-6 weeks with the injury. Ladislav Smid doesn't expect to be cleared for contact until mid October. The next few days and pre-season games are crucial for the likes of Nakladal, Tyler Wotherspoon, Brett Kulak, and Ryan Wilson.

"Right now, I think our top four options are pretty clear with Brodie’s injury," Hartley explained. "You don’t have to go to Harvard to figure that out. It’s still the battle of who is going to be that last defenceman on opening night.

"We can debate all we want who is going to be the seventh D, but the seventh D will not be playing. It’s who is going to be the sixth defenceman. That’s where the Dougie Hamilton [talk] has been put on hold for now -- who’s going to marry Dougie -- to who is going to play with Engelland. Just like The Bachelor, it’s week-to-week."

Backlund has been out of action since last week's game against the Oilers, nursing a minor malady. The 26-year-old was plagued by injuries last year and is thankful that this spell was a minor blip on the radar.

"It's fun to be back," Backlund said. "I skated Saturday too, it felt good. It was nothing major, just some maintenance from last year. But I feel good now. It's nothing to worry about.

"I felt great all summer. Then, coming into camp, it was quite a bit of skating and I hadn't skated ... that much before camp. I've got to be very good at taking care of my body, in warming-up and all that ... It's a good lesson for me, to always stay on top of my warm-ups."

In net, it will be veterans Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller splitting the goaltending duties. Ramo has 102:00 of pre-season action under his belt this fall with a 2.35 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Hiller has 89:00 of ice time, split between a pair games, with a 1.35 GAA and a .952 save percentage.

ICE CHIPS: Michael Frolik is the Flames pre-season scoring leader with two goals and three points in a pair of games ... Joni Ortio will get the start in the Flames pre-season tilt against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 1 ... There will not be mandatory 3-on-3 overtime in Tuesday's game. The next game the Flames are set to practice the new overtime format is when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 1.

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