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Flames' Stajan eager to return after personal tragedy

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan is ready to take a step forward.

The Flames will welcome Stajan back into the lineup Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres after he missed the past eight games to be with his wife, Katie, following the loss of newborn son Emerson on March 3.

"Obviously you realize what the most important things are in life, and that's family," Stajan said following practice Monday, his first with teammates since leaving the club. "This is like my second family coming here. Everybody's been so great and helpful.

"Going on the ice, it's a nice place for any player to get skating and clear the mind. It's been refreshing the last couple days on my own skating. And to get back on the ice skating, it's another step. It's exciting for me to move forward here.

"I want to play. You've got to keep taking steps forward. I want to get right back into game action. That's what hockey players want to do. That's the plan and I'm excited to get right back at it."

The news of Stajan's loss spread rapidly across the hockey world, prompting an outpouring of messages sending condolences to Matt and Katie.

It was no more evident than inside Calgary's dressing room.

Teammates were more than glad to welcome back Stajan, who was given the option of taking the balance of the season off by the Flames, and more than willing to help him through the difficult process.

"Obviously we were just excited to see him back here. It was a big relief for myself and the other guys," captain Mark Giordano said. "You don't even know what to say. It's tough when you see your buddy first walk through the door and he's been through so much. You try to stay in contact with him the past few weeks while he's been going through this, but it's not the same when you're not around the guys.

"Hopefully this helps him put his mind away from it for a few hours a day. If that's all it does, that's great. Matt and Katie, they're the ultimate people. You can't say enough good things about them. I'm really happy that one step of the process is behind them, but it's going to be a long time before things get back to normal, if ever. They know that we're here for them."

Here is the projected Flames lineup for Tuesday:

Mike Cammalleri - Sean Monahan - Joe Colborne

Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Paul Byron

Curtis Glencross - Matt Stajan - Brian McGrattan

Kevin Westgarth - TJ Galiardi - Ben Hanowski

TJ Brodie - Mark Giordano

Kris Russell - Chris Butler

Ladislav Smid - Tyler Wotherspoon

Joni Ortio

Joey MacDonald

Injured: Karri Ramo (lower body), David Jones (upper body), Jiri Hudler (lower body), Dennis Wideman (upper body), Markus Granlund (upper body)

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