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Flames' Backstrom to start first game in 14 months

Goalie will face Canadiens; hasn't played in NHL since Jan. 13, 2015

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

FLAMES (30-35-6) at CANADIENS (33-33-6)


MONTREAL -- Calgary Flames goalie Niklas Backstrom will play his first NHL game in 14 months against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Sunday, but his team will be down another defensemen.

Calgary is without defenseman Deryk Engelland, whose wife gave birth to their second child, Talon, on Sunday. That left the Flames, who lost Dennis Wideman to a season-ending triceps injury Wednesday, with five defensemen for the morning skate in Montreal.

"That's how it goes," said Backstrom, who will make his first start for Calgary in his first game in the League since Jan. 13, 2015, when he was with the Minnesota Wild. "At the end of the day, it's hockey. There's bigger things in the world, and to be with his baby, that's probably more important than hockey so everyone is happy for him."

Calgary coach Bob Hartley said the Flames hope to recall a defenseman from Stockton of the American Hockey League in time for the game, otherwise he will dress 13 forwards.

"It's always great and obviously you can't control nature," Hartley said about the reason for Engelland's sudden departure from the team. "[The baby] came out before its time; it probably wanted to see its first NHL game tonight."

The uncertainty about the makeup of the lineup hardly fazed Backstrom, who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild in a Feb. 29 trade for forward David Jones.

"I'm pretty much trying to remember what I used to do before a game," Backstrom said. "For sure, everyone has to step up. It's more for the [defensemen], but all five guys out there have to help. The goalie has to help, too, so it's something we have to be ready for, if that happens."

In addition to giving Backstrom his first start against Montreal, Hartley said the 38-year-old goalie would start Thursday at Minnesota. Backstrom holds the Wild's records for most games played by a goalie (409), wins (194) and shutouts (28).

"I think it's a very simple gesture from our part, but I'm sure that it means a lot to Niklas," Hartley said.

Calgary, which begins a three-game road trip Sunday, has scored five shorthanded goals in its past four games

Montreal, which allowed a team-record three shorthanded goals in a 5-0 loss at the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, did not have a morning skate.

Here are the projected lineups:


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Josh Jooris

Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Micheal Ferland - Sam Bennett - Joe Colborne

Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - Garnet Hathaway

Freddie Hamilton

Mark Giordano

TJ Brodie - Dougie Hamilton

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jakub Nakladal

Niklas Backstrom

Jonas Hiller

Injured: Karri Ramo (torn ACL), Ladislav Smid (upper body), Dennis Wideman (triceps)

Scratched: Deryk Engelland, Joni Ortio


Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Sven Andrighetto

Lars Eller - Tomas Plekanec - Paul Byron

Stefan Matteau - Phillip Danault - Torrey Mitchell

Lucas Lessio - Michael McCarron - Mike Brown

Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin

Nathan Beaulieu - Greg Pateryn

Joel Hanley - Darren Dietz

Mike Condon

Ben Scrivens

Injured: P.K. Subban (neck), Carey Price (lower body), Mark Barberio (concussion-like symptoms), Brendan Gallagher (lower body), Daniel Carr (lower body), Jeff Petry (sports hernia), Brian Flynn (lower body), David Desharnais (broken foot), Tom Gilbert (knee), Victor Bartley (lower body)

Scratched: Jacob De La Rose

Status report: The Canadiens recalled Hanley from St. John's of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis and he could make his NHL debut.... Bennett returns after missing four games because of an upper-body injury. ... Hiller will start at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. ... Subban, who is day-to-day, will miss his fifth straight game. He skated Friday for the first time since he was injured March 10 in a collision with Emelin.

Who's hot: Giordano has three goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. He has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his past eight games. ... Backlund has four goals and four assists in his past eight games. ... Gaudreau has two goals and five assists in his past five games. ... Frolik has four goals and three assists in his past five games. ... Galchenyuk has 12 goals and 14 points in his past 12 games. Pacioretty has one goal and seven assists in his past seven games.

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