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Flames open up competition to make Cup Qualifier roster

GM says playing in regular season no guarantee to face Jets in best-of-5 series @NHLdotcom

The Calgary Flames will use the 20 best players from training camp regardless of their standing during the regular season when they play the Winnipeg Jets in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, general manager Brad Treliving said Friday.

"We've got 30 guys, whatever it is, coming to camp, and because of the uniqueness of the situation, camp is important," Treliving said. "The top 20 play. This isn't one of these things where (you say), 'OK let's take the first third of the season and see where everybody goes.' I don't care if you played in Stockton (of the American Hockey League) or if you played 10 games here or if you played 70 games here. Can you help us beat Winnipeg? If the answer is yes, then you're in.

"This isn't a development camp. This is a get-ready-to-get-into-the-playoffs camp."

The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Training camp, which is Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, is expected to begin July 10.

A start date for Phase 4, which begins with the qualifiers, has not been announced. The qualifiers will include 16 teams, eight from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western Conference, playing in best-of-5 series and the top four teams in each conference playing a round-robin to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two hub cities -- one for the 12 participating Western Conference teams, one for the 12 Eastern teams -- have not been announced.

The Flames (36-27-7, .564 points percentage) and are the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The Jets (37-28-6, 563) are the No. 9 seed. The winner will advance to the playoffs, and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.

"Our group has been together for the majority of the season," Treliving said. "We know who everyone is. It's important, even some of the guys coming in … guys that have played games for us this year, they're coming here and I think they want to push to show that they're ready to help us. That creates great competition in camp. That's what the focus is."

Treliving said that several players who spent all or most of the season with Stockton will get looks in camp, including forwards Alan Quine, Byron Froese, Austin Czarnik, defenseman Alexander Yelesin, and goalie Jon Gillies, who each has NHL experience. 

Quine had 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 38 games with Stockton and has played 106 NHL games with the New York Islanders and Flames. He also had five points (one goal, four assists) in 10 playoff games with the Islanders in 2016.

Treliving said that what the Flames will be going through in training camp is the same as what the other 24 teams will be experiencing ahead of the qualifiers.

"The focus for the 24 teams is how do we get our team up to speed," he said. "How do we get to our 'A' game when we haven't played for so long? As much as guys are going to break down, I think if you ask the 24 coaches, they've been spending a lot of their time on, 'How do I get our group going back and firing back at all cylinders and get our chemistry back, and how do we get prepared and get through a camp that can get guys engaged as quickly as possible when we're coming through such a unique time?' versus spending every waking moment trying to break down the opponent." independent correspondent Aaron Vickers contributed to this report

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