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Training Camp Guide: Battle on the Blueline

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- As the Flames head into training camp, one of the biggest questions is what the Flames blueline will look like come October 7 when the Regular season opens.

With eight defensemen on one-way contracts and several prospects nipping at the heels of the veterans for a spot in the lineup, there are sure to be some disappointed d-men when camp breaks.

The Flames have Ian White, Mark Giordano, Cory Sarich, Robyn Regehr, Adam Pardy, Steve Staios and Jay Bouwmeester as returnees from last season. That's pretty solid ground to start out and with depth behind them, a good position to be in if the team runs into injury troubles. The old adage in hockey is you can never have enough defencemen.

As we mentioned, cracking the blueline ranks will be a tough job with the group of veterans in front of them. However, team officials insist they are going with the top 23 players, so who knows what could happen.

With that in mind, as part of our training camp series, we take a look at which Abbotsford Heat defensemen could challenge for roster spots.

Matt Pelech



2009-10 AHL SEASON
GP: 42 | GOALS: 2 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 10
PIM: 125 | +/-: 7

Matt Pelech - The Flames first-overall pick in the 2005 Entry Draft (26th overall) hoped that the 2009-10 season would be his time to make a push into the NHL.

Instead, he played just 42 games for the Abbotsford Heat last season after developing a blood clot in his right shoulder. The health scare - which General Manager Darryl Sutter has categorized as not just career-threatening injury but a life-threatening condition - took away his chance at proving himself and now, fully healthy, the 23 year-old wants to make this his year.

Pelech knows it will be a long, arduous battle to earn a spot on the roster but he believes he's prepared to give teammates a run for their money.

"My main focus is to come into camp really prepared to compete for a spot," Pelech told the Calgary Herald last week. "I'm just going to do my best and really show them I can be up there. I know there are still a lot of bodies and really good players on the back-end. It won't be an easy thing to do." 

John Negrin



2009-10 AHL SEASON
GP: 44 | GOALS: 5 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 15
PIM: 28 | +/-: 0

John Negrin - Like Pelech, Negrin was hampered with injuries in his 2009-10 season. After getting checked, Negrin suffered a wrist injury in early 2010. While rehabilitating, he tried to continue skating but came to the realization his left knee "wasn't right." It turns out that the 22 year-old had fractured his kneecap in November and had been unknowingly playing with the injury, causing further damage. This second injury cut his season short, limiting him to 45 games last year. He has spent the summer working out and rehabilitating his knee and believes he'll be ready for camp.

"I feel pretty good. I feel really good on the ice," Negrin said on Sunday afternoon.

Negrin says he while he's entering camp with the knowledge their a backlog on the blueline, he's also heading in knowing that no roster spot safe and if he can perform in camp, he may just get asked to stay in Calgary.

"There's eight veteran defensemen and they're all on one way contracts but changes are. It's part of the game. Whoever's working hard and really getting the job done are the guys that are going to be there in the end. In this game, you don't have a spot until camp is over. It's going to be tight."

Matt Pelech



2009-10 AHL SEASON
GP: 44 | GOALS: 5 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 28
PIM: 24 | +/-: 1

Staffan Kronwall - Only playing 11 games for the Flames last season, Kronwall provided the Heat with a veteran presence on the blueline.

In 42 games in Abbotsford, the Swede put together a career season.

He notched five goals and put up 28 points in the 2009-10 season, making him one of the most productive blueliners for the club.

Given the excellent season he had with the Flames farm team, Kronwall will be watched closely by hockey operations at training camp.

If he showcases his offensive talents while maintaining defensive responsibilities over the next couple of weeks, he will get a long, hard look for the Flames seventh defense spot.

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