RUSSELL GETTING CLOSER
Defenceman Kris Russell has been fully cleared to practice with the team and will be joining the team on their two-game road trip. However, the Caroline, AB product isn't expected back in the lineup until later next week.
"We're going to ramp him up and I don't know, maybe another two, three games he should be back," head coach Bob Hartley said.
Prior to suffering a second degree MCL sprain, Russell had been one of the Flames top defencemen and the team has sorely missed the rearguard. Not only was Russell providing strong play in his own end, he was able to generate a lot of offence for his club. In 36 games this season, he has scored four goals and 16 points.
"He's a motor for us," Hartley stated. "These days the systems are so good that to score from just down low, it's getting real tough. You need your d-men to come in ... it brings a second wave of attack.
"He's a great skater. A great first pass. Not afraid to jump in the hole and his first few steps are real quick. That allows him to make some room for himself and get open. Whenever he comes back, I think it's going to help us defensively and offensively."
Russell has sat through the Flames scoring drought in December and January and has been frustrated with his inability to help his team.
"It's tough not playing," he sighed. "Especially when things are going well, you feel like you want to be there. You're kind of helpless when you're sitting in the stands."
JONES BACK IN THE LINEUP
Blair Jones, after missing 11 games with a meniscal tear, has been cleared to play and will suit up for the Flames in Vancouver tomorrow night.
"It's been hard. You always want to be out there helping the guys," Jones said after the hour-long skate at the Corral. "It's going to be nice to get back in and feel like part of the team again, try and get a couple of wins."
Hartley had the 27-year-old skating on a line with Paul Byron and Matt Stajan and the bench boss is looking for that trio to make a statement with strong defensive play and smart plays in the offensive zone.
"Smart decisions. Right now, in many games, some of our mistakes, we're beating ourselves. We're opening the door wide open for the other team. That has to stop.
"You saw some veterans get scratched before and now that we're getting healthy again, there might be some surprises."
RAMO GETS THE CALL
Karri Ramo will start in Vancouver on Saturday night. Earlier this week, the Finn collected his first NHL shutout when he made 23 saves in a 2-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
BEGIN CALLS IT CAREER
On Thursday, veteran forward Steve Bégin announced his retirement and on Friday morning, Hartley expressed his admiration for the former Flame.
"An unbelievable worker. I remember, I think I was in Colorado when the St. John Flames won the Calder Cup and the year after, the picture on the AHL guide was a picture of Steve with the Calder Cup. I didn't know Steve but just his face ... he was bruised, black eyes, stitches and everything. When I saw that picture, without knowing him, I said, 'Here's a winner. I'd like to meet this guy.'
"I've been part of championship teams and I know what it takes to win. This guy never cheated the game one bit. Last year, he played through pain. I thought that he was a solid warrior for us ... I think that for a young player growing up to watch Steve Bégin, the way that he prepares, the way that he committed to himself to this game ... very limited talent but he beat the odds because he wouldn't take no as an answer. I think that's a real big credit to him."
The Flames take on the Vancouver Canucks at 8:00 PM MST (CBC, FAN 960) on Saturday.
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