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Flames' Russell game-time decision against Islanders

Defenseman has missed five games with lower-body injury

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

ISLANDERS (32-19-7) at FLAMES (26-30-3) 

TV: 9 p.m. ET; MSG+2, SNW, NHL.TV 

CALGARY -- Defenseman Kris Russell is a game-time decision for the Calgary Flames against the New York Islanders at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.

Russell has missed the past five games because of a lower-body injury. 

"It looks good," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "We're going to wait until after the warm-up to make sure that he is 100 percent. Basically the medical staff has cleared him but it's up to Kris to give us the final green light. Knowing him, he wants to play but at the same time we want to do what is best for him." 

Despite missing eight games this season, Russell is second in the NHL with 174 blocked shots. He set a League record with 283 blocked shots while playing in a career-high 79 games last season. 

"I think it was a good skate this morning," Russell said. "I think we're going to wait until game time. That's all I've heard so that's all I'm going to go with. 

"I just want to play. I think the hardest thing for me this week was seeing your teammates in a losing battle the last few games. I want to be part of a winning team and I want to be here. I feel like when you're not helping your team out, you're letting them down a bit." 

The Flames lost four of five games without Russell and five of the past six overall. Calgary is 13 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Flames also trail the San Jose Sharks by 15 points for third in the Pacific Division. 

Russell, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, has heard his name come up in rumors as the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaches. 

"I mean, obviously you hear it from friends and family," he said. "I don't get involved with it. I don't read what's going on. My name is coming up. I want to be a Calgary Flame. I've said that. Sometimes you don't get what you want. I'm just looking forward to getting back helping this team as much as I can until I hear different. 

"I don't look too much into the future. I'm with this team today. That's my main focus." 

The Islanders play the third of a season-high seven-game road trip in Calgary. New York has a three-point lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins hold the second wild card into the playoffs from the East. 

Islanders captain John Tavares said his team is concerned with the playoffs and not the trade deadline despite having several pending unrestricted free agents on the roster. 

"We're trying to win the Stanley Cup," Tavares said. "We're in the race here to get to the playoffs and we're getting to the stretch run. There's a lot of important hockey left to be played. I don't expect us to be subtracting from what we have, in guys that have been big parts of our team for many years, not just on the ice but in the locker room…such valuable guys and voices and the way they carry themselves, their presence with their work ethic. 

"We're trying to win, and obviously build on what we've done to this point and just trying to go one game at a time. It's cliché but it's the honest truth. The focus with those guys is certainly the same." 

Here are the projected lineups: 


Josh Bailey - John Tavares - Ryan Strome  
Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo  
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck  
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Steve Bernier  

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk  
Thomas Hickey - Travis Hamonic  
Brian Strait - Marek Zidlicky  

Jaroslav Halak  
Thomas Greiss  

Injured: Eric Boulton (upper body), Calvin de Haan (lower body), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body), Adam Pelech (upper body) 
Scratched: Ryan Pulock, Jean-Francois Berube  


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler  
Joe Colborne - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik  
Micheal Ferland - Sam Bennett - David Jones  
Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Brandon Bollig  

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie  
Kris Russell - Dougie Hamilton  
Tyler Wotherspoon - Deryk Engelland  

Joni Ortio  
Jonas Hiller  

Injured: Ladislav Smid (upper body), Karri Ramo (torn ACL) 
Scratched: Josh Jooris, Jakub Nakladal  
Suspended: Dennis Wideman 

Status report: Halak will start his third consecutive game. Grabovski and de Haan did not travel with the Islanders on the Western leg of their road trip. …Ortio is making back-to-back starts for the first time this season. Nakladal will play if Russell isn't deemed ready to return. 

Who's hot: Tavares has eight goals and 10 points in his past 12 games. Okposo has 10 points in his past nine games. …Gaudreau has six assists and seven points as part of a five-game point-streak.

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