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Schedule’s out – if we have an full season

- June 21st, 2012

The NHL unveiled its complete 2012-13 season schedule Thursday, although it’s up in the air whether the pending collective bargaining agreement will shorten or even cancel the campaign.

Either way, should the unexpected take place and we have a full 82-game season, the Flames will open at the Saddledome Oct. 11 against the Vancouver Canucks. Game 2 is against the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings,  before they begin their first road trip.

Notable visitors to the Dome — other than the usual fare of Western Conference clubs — include the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals on consecutive home games (Oct. 25 and Oct. 27), with the Montreal Canadiens coming Oct. 30.

The Boston Bruins will provide the opposition for the New Year’s Eve game, a switch from the expected.

The Florida Panthers (Nov. 15), Ottawa Senators (Dec. 4), Toronto Maple Leafs (Dec. 19), Buffalo Sabres (Dec. 22) and New York Islanders (Jan. 11) are the other Eastern Conference foes scheduled to come to Calgary.

The Flames don’t have any overly long road trips this year — the longest is a five-game trek in early November.

The season concludes with a clash in Edmonton, the third game against the Oilers in less than two weeks.

Of course, this all begs another question: What if the Phoenix Coyotes deal falls through and the team moves to, say, Quebec City?

A long climb

- April 5th, 2012

When he was 18, Akim Aliu figured this day would come much sooner.

After all, we’re talking about a player who was projected to maybe be a first-round draft choice when he skated with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, and he had the size and skill, as shown by a 20-goal , 42-point 104 penalty minute season with 53 games.

That was back in June of 2007.

Aliu’s NHL debut is finally due to happen Thursday night when the Flames play host to the Vancouver Canucks.

“It’s a dream come true. Sometimes you think this day will never come, but when it does come, it’s that much more special,” Aliu said after the morning skate in which he was on a line with Michael Cammalleri and Matt Stajan.

Aliu was drafted by Chicago 56th overall — he openly admitted at the time being very disappointed, and vowed to make teams which passed over him pay for it — but took a long and winding road. He admits needing to mature, and believes coming to the Flames organization was a major turning point.

The 23-year-old who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Kiev, Ukraine, before coming at Canada at age 12, was with the Winnipeg Jets organization and in the ECHL. He actually approached the Flames about giving him a chance with their AHL squad and made the most of it under Heat coach Troy Ward.

“Plan and simple, he resurrected my career,” Aliu said. “I was kind of down and out and this organization gave me an opportunity.

“All the credit goes to him and the organization.”

In 40 games for the Heat, Aliu collected 10 goals and 14 points.

In other news, the Flames will be without Alex Tanguay and David Moss, so Lance Bouma will go back into the lineup.

Also, defenceman T.J. Brodie, who suffered a concussion nearly a month ago, skated for the first time today.

All about intensity and emotion for the Flames

- March 19th, 2012

Losses on the weekend to Edmonton and Columbus — the 29th and 30th place teams in the NHL — reinforced what everybody has long said about this year’s edition of the Calgary Flames.

Head coach Brent Sutter re-affirmed the theory his team all too often lacks emotion and it’s only chance — especially during the three-game road trip which starts Tuesday at the Colorado Avalanche — is to find that fire.

“Our team is a real good hockey team when we have emotion and we have intensity, but when we don’t bring that, we’re not a very good hockey team,” Sutter said after a small gathering skated at the Saddledome Monday. “When we have it, we can play and compete against anybody in this league . That tells you what the makeup of your team is and what the strength and identity is. We need to have that emotion and intensity firing on all cylinders.”

Well, that’s the challenge from the coach. Time will tell whether his team has the oomph to follow through. With nine games remaining on the schedule and the Flames sitting 11th in the Western Conference and two points back of the pair of clubs tied for seventh and eight spots, they are pretty much in do-or-die territory.

The Flames can make the playoffs without running the table, but probably need to win seven of their remaining games.

They may get some more help soon. Forwards Tim Jackman (shoulder) and Lance Bouma (undisclosed but believed to be a concussion) as well as defenceman Chris Butler (leg laceration) are all going on this road trip. The two forwards said they figure they could get the green light to play in Denver, and Butler is without a timeline, but pushing hard to return by the end of this road swing.

As well, centre Blair Jones skated for the first time since suffering a broken ankle Feb. 9. Considering he was wearing a walking boot last Thursday, he’s pushing hard to be back in action as soon as possible.



Stempniak in, Moss to the middle

- March 18th, 2012

The post-Sven Baertschi 2012 era begins Sunday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with Lee Stempniak back in the lineup for the first time since suffering an ankle injury Feb. 3.

Baertschi, if you recall, was sent back to junior, and the book closes on his five-game emergency recall stint with three goals.

The twist to it all is what Stempniak’s return does to the forward lines.

Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Matt Stajan remain together, but David Moss has been put at centre with Stempniak and Blake Comeau, while Tom Kostopoulos moved to right wing with Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross.

The fourth line is Roman Horak with Greg Nemisz and Guillaume Desbiens.

It would seem the Flames could receive another infusion of players soon, too.

Forwards, Tim Jackman and Lance Bouma took part in the morning skate, therefore are nearing a return.

Defenceman Chris Butler didn’t skate — he seems to be going some days but not others — while there was no sign of Michael Cammalleri, Mikael Backlund, Blair Jones and T.J. Brodie.

No pressure kid, but …

- March 9th, 2012

David Moss sits right beside Sven Baertschi in the Calgary Flames dressing room.
As much as Moss is in charge of ensuring the Flames prized 2011 first-round draft choice remembers to just be himself and not get too caught up in the buzz of his first NHL game Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets, Moss has reason to put a bit of pressure on the youngster.
After all, Moss scored in his NHL debut, the game-winning goal in a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings Dec. 19, 2006.
“What a game it was,” Moss recalled. “A big win. We were talking about it on the ice, Staje (Matt Stajan), TK (Tom Kostopoulos) and Glennie (Curtis Glencross) also scored in their first NHL game.
“So we were telling Sven he’s got to do it, too. A lot of guys do it,” he added with a grin.
We’ll see whether Baertschi, who was summoned from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks on an emergency basis for this game, can duplicate such a feat, but he does have the potential.
The 13th overall pick has an incredible 33 goals and 94 points in 47 WHL games this season.
Baertschi skated on a line with Tom Kostopoulos and Greg Nemisz, the No.-3 unit.
Calgary’s other lines in anticipation of tonight’s clash with the Jets are:
Curtis Glencross – Olli Jokinen – David Moss
Alex Tanguay- Matt Stajan – Jarome Iginla
Krys Kolanos – Roman Horak – Guillaume Desbiens.
The defence will remain the same:
Jay Bouwmeester – Cory Sarich
Mark Giordano – Scott Hannan
Derek Smith – T.J. Brodie
Miikka Kiprusoff due to play in goal.
Also, some honesty from the Flames captain Jarome Iginla as to why he didn’t practice the last couple of days.
He admitted having a cut on his ankle, so the time off the ice is to help let it heal. He said it won’t prevent him from playing.
As for the injured brigade, Lance Bouma, Tim Jackman and Blake Comeau were all skating in full equipment prior to the morning skate. Lee Stempniak was also on the ice wearing a track suit.
All were skating hard, including Stempniak, who’s battling a high-ankle sprain that’s sidelined him more than a month.