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Flames' Wotherspoon eager for opportunity

Thin on defense, Calgary recalls defenseman to face Vancouver

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CANUCKS (22-23-12) at FLAMES (25-28-3)
TV: 9 p.m. ET; SNP, SNW, NHL.TV

CALGARY -- Injuries to Calgary Flames defensemen Kris Russell and Ladislav Smid, and the suspension to Dennis Wideman, will allow Tyler Wotherspoon to make his NHL season debut against the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday.

Wotherspoon was recalled from Stockton of the American Hockey League early Friday.

"It's a huge opportunity for me," said Wotherspoon, who has played in 15 NHL regular-season games over the past two years. "It's been a long season down there (in Stockton) but getting back up here to get a shot to prove that I can play up here full-time is huge for me and I'm going to try to make the most of it."

Russell will miss his third straight game because of a lower-body injury; Smid sustained an upper-body injury in the first period of a 5-3 loss against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

Wideman has served eight games of a 20-game suspension for conduct violative of Rule 40 (Physical Abuse of Officials) on Jan. 27.

"We know [Wotherspoon], he's been great for us," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "Two years ago, last year, we didn't have lots of our call-up guys playing on the blue line with us and this year also we've been fairly lucky. Right now we're going through a little rash of injuries in the back end. We believe in [Wotherspoon]. It's a great opportunity for him and we're happy to have him here."

Wotherspoon has four points, all assists, in 40 AHL games this season.

It's his first recall since playing six games in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's frustrating," Wotherspoon said. "I'm sure for every player down in the AHL it's frustrating waiting for their opportunity to get it. It's part of the business and you've got to shove that to the side and really work on your game and have patience.

"I know the business and when you get up here you've got to treat it like it's your last day. That's the nature of it and that's the way you've got to go about it."

Injury trouble has hit the Flames at an inopportune time.

Calgary trails Vancouver by three points for fifth in the Pacific Division. The Flames are 14 points behind the third-place San Jose Sharks and 11 points back of the Colorado Avalanche, who hold the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

"Unfortunately, we put ourselves in that position so now we are reeling back and it's time to collect wins," Hartley said. "Not one. … Many wins."

Vancouver, which has lost three games in a row, sits eight points behind the Avalanche.

"It's huge for every team that's in there, especially for us too," Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom said. "We're not playing the way we want to right now, especially when you're pushing for the playoffs. We want to play playoff hockey and we haven't been doing that the last three games here. We've got to get back on the horse and start playing good again."

Here are the projected lineups:

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen  
Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Radim Vrbata  
Alexandre Burrows - Linden Vey - Emerson Etem  
Derek Dorsett - Jared McCann - Jake Virtanen

Ben Hutton - Christopher Tanev  
Dan Hamhuis - Luca Sbisa  
Matt Bartkowski - Alex Biega

Jacob Markstrom 
Ryan Miller

Injured: Alexander Edler (fibula fracture), Brandon Sutter (fractured jaw) 
Scratched: Yannick Weber, Adam Cracknell, Alex Friesen  
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler  
Joe Colborne - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik  
Micheal Ferland - Sam Bennett - Josh Jooris  
Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie  
Deryk Engelland - Dougie Hamilton  
Tyler Wotherspoon - Jakub Nakladal

Jonas Hiller  
Joni Ortio

Injured: Kris Russell (lower body), Ladislav Smid (upper body), Karri Ramo (torn ACL) 
Scratched: Brandon Bollig, Markus Granlund  
Suspended: Dennis Wideman

Status update: The Canucks held an optional morning skate following a 5-2 loss at home against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Markstrom is expected to start in net. … Hiller will make his fourth consecutive start. Bennett, who has played left wing the majority of the season, will move to center against Vancouver.

Who's hot: Henrik Sedin has three assists and four points during a three-game point-streak. … Gaudreau has one goal and three assists in his past two games.

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