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Finnish Flames set to mark debuts against Kings

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Sleep, Joni Ortio admitted, wasn't a problem.

Set to make his first career NHL start against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, the Calgary Flames goaltender admitted he had no problem getting in a good snooze on the eve of the game.

"Good (sleep)," Ortio said. "Excited. I can't wait for tonight."

If the 22-year-old is nervous about marking his debut against Los Angeles, he's doing an exceptional job of masking it.

Even Flames coach Bob Hartley can't sense any sort of panic in the netminder, who has been a standout for the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League this season.

"It seems that he has no heartbeat," Hartley said. "I talked to him yesterday and it was almost like I was asking him to go for a burger with me after practice. I like this. Goalies are strange. Some goalies jump to the roof and him, no, it was just like another day at the office."

That calmness is nothing new for the Turku, Finland native.

Ortio insists he's had the mentality throughout his young career.

"I'm just not that type of guy," the 6-foot-1, 185-pound goalie said. "I don't really get that nervous. I don't know where it comes from. I think I've always been somewhat like that. That's something I've always had and it's always been there. I don't know where it comes from, it's just how I've been."

The poise has worked for him thus far.

Ortio has put together an impressive run with the Heat this year, compiling a 20-6-0 record. His 2.22 goals-against average ranks fifth in the AHL while his .926 save percentage is second only to Martin Jones, who is expected to serve as backup to Jonathan Quick against the Flames.

Even Ortio is a little surprised with how his season, which started in the ECHL with the Alaska Aces, has unfolded.

"It's been quite a journey," he said. "It's been four months. Things have been going my way and I'm just happy to be here. Starting the year down there (in Alaska) and ending up here (with Calgary), I didn't quite think about that, but I'm happy it turned out that way.

"That was my goal all along. This is the first step on that way and let's hope it's the first of many."

Ortio isn't making his debut alone, either.

Abbotsford teammate and fellow Finn Markus Granlund will also skate in his first NHL game, centering a line between Paul Byron and Kevin Westgarth.

Granlund, 20, was a little more vocal about his excitement than his countryman.

"Of course I'm excited," he said. "It's my first NHL game, so I'll just try to enjoy it. I feel good. I just try to enjoy and learn something and do my best."

Hartley too can sense the excitement in the 5-foot-11, 185-pound pivot.

"He's a little bit more eager, I feel, than Joni," he said. "I can feel that he's on his toes, especially this morning. He was asking questions."

Like Ortio, Granlund has had a standout rookie campaign with the Heat. He leads Abbotsford with 44 points, while his 23 goals are tops among all rookies in the AHL this season.

The opportunity for Granlund, who was recalled earlier in the year but didn't play, comes as a result of an upper-body injury to Brian McGrattan and the absence of Lee Stempniak, who is away from the team dealing with a personal matter.

"He's younger and here's another guy who is probably one of our MVPs in Abbotsford," Hartley said. "He got called up early on before the Olympic break when there was a doubt on a player because of an injury and it ended up that he didn't play, but he got a taste and he was around the team. Now he's practiced with us for the last couple of days and due to [Stempniak]'s absence and [McGrattan]'s injury, he has a chance to play.

"It's great for Markus."

Here are the projected lineups for the Kings and Flames on Thursday:


Tyler Toffoli - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams

Tanner Pearson - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter

Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown

Jordan Nolan - Linden Vey - Trevor Lewis

Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty

Robyn Regehr - Slava Voynov

Willie Mitchell - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Kyle Clifford, Matt Frattin, Alec Martinez


TJ Galiardi - Mikael Backlund - Jiri Hudler

Mike Cammalleri - Sean Monahan - Joe Colborne

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Paul Byron - Markus Granlund - Kevin Westgarth

TJ Brodie - Mark Giordano

Kris Russell - Chris Butler

Ladislav Smid - Dennis Wideman

Joni Ortio

Reto Berra

Scratched: Derek Smith, Lee Stempniak (personal)

Injured: Curtis Glencross (high ankle sprain), Karri Ramo (lower body), Brian McGrattan (upper body)

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