CALGARY, AB --
The Flames have stockpiled several capable centers and the battle for a roster spot will be fierce. Some forwards, barring injury, are a lock for roster spots. But players like Craig Conroy and Ryan Stone will have to fight tooth and nail to stay the Flames.
Daymond Langkow's medical availability is also a factor in determining the lineup. At the moment, Langkow is not cleared for contact and will not take part in the initial stages of training camp. If his status does not change, more opportunities to crack the lineup open up.
Here is a look at some of the centers looking to make a push to full-time NHL employment this season.
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2009-10 AHL SEASON
GP: 14 | GOALS: 1 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 6
PIM: 13 |
John Armstrong - Armstrong has never appreciated a clean bill of health more than he does right now.
"This is one of the first camps in the last couple of years that I've been healthy," Armstrong told CalgaryFlames.com ."This summer, I could focus more on hockey and skating. I think I skated a little more this year than most because I'm healthy. I think because of that, I'm a lot more ready to go."
Armstrong has struggled with injuries over the past couple of seasons and until the Young Stars tournament, had not played a game since December, 2009. After recovering from shoulder surgery, the 22 year-old has spent the bulk of his time getting ready for this opportunity. His summer preparations for camp have him coming into camp undaunted by the goal of uprooting a veteran from the lineup.
"I think success in hockey has a lot to do with confidence. When I'm playing with confidence, I'm playing better," he stated."This is my fifth camp now and a couple years ago, I got to play some exhibition games. I saw what it took to play at the next level. I feel like I can play with these guys."
General manager Darryl Sutter recently expressed his faith in Armstrong, stating that despite his injuries over past seasons, he believes the forward has a geniune chance of making the team.
When asked if he believes he can push a forward off the roster at training camp, Armstrong's answer was a self-assured "I do."
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2009-10 NHL SEASON
GP: 23 | GOALS: 1 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 10
PIM: 6 | +/-: 5
Mikael Backlund - While nothing is set in stone, Backlund sees this season as his time to shine. The Flames first-round pick from the 2007 Entry Draft is expected by many to earn a roster spot with the Flames.
"I believe in myself and believe I'm good enough to play here now," he said. "I think I've proved that to a lot of people last year and I know I'll get a good shot so it's up to me to play good. That's what I'm going to try to do."
The forward has 24 NHL contests under his belt, with one goal and 10 points in that stretch of time, and is hoping that experience will pay off when the coaching staff makes its final decision on the lineup. However, he knows that while he's a front-runner for a job with the club, he must have a successful and productive training camp.
"I have to work hard and push. I know I have to take someone else's job. It's up to me to show them I want to be here."
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2009-10 NHL SEASON
GP: 10 | GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
PIM: 5 | +/-: -1
Brett Sutter - Sutter is another dark horse at this year's training camp. The Viking, AB native has been called up for 14 games over the past two seasons and displayed the grit and work ethic coaches love. Sutter is an excellent penalty killer and checking forward, making him a very viable option to center an energy line for the club.
Sutter produced 24 points through 66 regular season games with the Heat and had an excellent postseason with the club. In 13 playoff games, the 23 year-old amassed four goals and 11 points, leading his team in scoring. This offensive outburst combined was sure to turn a few heads and with this excellent post-season perfromance in the coaches minds, Sutter will be given every opportunity at camp to show that he's able to play at the NHL level on a full-time basis.