The Calgary Flames will host the Nashville Predators on Friday in their second outing of a two-game home stand.
Flames forward Jiri Hudler will be returning to the lineup after sitting out the past seven games with a lower body injury that he sustained in the third period of the Match 5 game against the Ottawa Senators.
“I skated two or three days ago with him [Hudler], and he worked unbelievably hard,” Hartley said. “I could tell that he wanted to play.”
Hudler leads the Flames in points with 44 on the year, and is having one of his best seasons to date, including a point-per-game average of 0.71.
“It’s easy for veterans to tell the training staff, ‘I’m not quite ready,’ and just unplug,” Hartley said. “But we don’t see this, and that’s a credit to our players.”
With Hudler’s return, the Flames injury list gets a little smaller. Ramo (lower body) is close to returning, while Markus Granlund, Jones and Dennis Wideman all remain out for the time being with upper body ailments.
SHUFFLING THE DECK
Forward Kenny Agostino, who signed an entry-level deal earlier this week, will suit up for his first game as a member of the Flames.
“I’m as comfortable as I’m going to be,” he said. “I’m really excited.
“The most important thing is to not think too much and let my instincts take over.”
With Agostino joining the lineup, Hartley had to switch up the lines for the time being.
The line of Sean Monahan, Mike Cammalleri and Joe Colborne was separated, with Cammalleri playing on the left wing with Mikael Backlund and Paul Byron. Agostino will play on the wing with Monahan and Colborne.
“With Agostino coming in and Hudler returning, we had to revamp our lines a little bit,” Hartley said. “It’s more to balance out skills and responsibilities.
“Cammy with Backs? That should be a good team."
Agostino follows in the footsteps of fellow Flame Ben Hanowski, who signed and played in Calgary late last season after finishing his college career at St. Cloud State. Hanowski was acquired by the Flames from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the same trade for Jarome Iginla.
“It’s exciting for him [Agostino], when you see someone reach their goal of playing in the NHL is always cool,” Hanowski said.
Agostino’s family will be flying in Friday to watch him play in his first NHL game.
“It’s going to be a special night for me, my family and my close friends,” said Agostino.
Ramo took in a full practice today and appears to be closer to returning in net for the Flames.
Ramo, who has been sidelined since Feb. 1, has missed past 14 games for Calgary while nursing a lower body injury.
“I think I’m as close as it gets before I get ready to play,” he said. “One or two more practices, maybe not even that.”
In his first season with the Flames, Ramo has 11 wins in 26 starts, while posting 2.66 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
“Trying to stay mentally positive and focused has been the hardest part,” he said. We have a really good training staff here and they have been doing a good job with me every morning for the past six weeks.”
Hartley explained that Ramo is not quite ready to return to the lineup, but Ramo can be expected back soon.
Joni Ortio will get his ninth start of the season tomorrow when the Flames take on the Nashville Predators.
“I like to put them in situations to see how they (Agostino, Monahan and Colborne) will adjust. So here are three kids, two of which have done unbelievably well in their first NHL season.”
-Hartley on putting Kenny Agostino on a line with fellow rookies Monahan and Colborne
The Flames end their two-game home stand when they host the Nashville Predators to the Scotiabank Saddledome Friday night at 7:00 pm MST (SNET-W, FAN 960). They then travel north to face division rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, March 22 at 8:00 pm MST (CBC, FAN 9600.)
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