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Flames Today: 23.09.10

Backlund and Stajan discuss injuries & the race for roster spots

Thursday, 23.09.2010 / 3:20 PM / Flames Today
By Torie Peterson  - CalgaryFlames.com (@toriepeterson)
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Flames Today: 23.09.10
STAJAN 'DAY-TO-DAY'

Matt Stajan addressed the media for the first time since being injured in the Flames preseason tilt against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, conceding that he did not know how long it would take for him to get back on the ice.

"It's kind of day-to-day. Obviously I'm out indefinitely for awhile," he said. "We'll just take it day-to-day, work hard and just see how it reacts to the treatments I'm doing. There's not really a timeline ... There's not any other word to describe it but frustrating. I'll have to deal with it."

The injury developed from a relatively innocent play that Stajan said he had been involved in numerous times in his career.

"I was reaching for a puck. The guy had a step on me and I was trying to reach around him to poke the puck. I actually did poke the puck ahead and I thought he was just going to take it but he instead threw his body into me. He just hit me awkwardly, I was kind of bent over and came down on my right shoulder.

"I picked up my stick, skated up and down the ice. I tried to finish the shift but as soon as I got off, I knew something was wrong. I couldn't lift my arm. It is what is and I've just got to deal with it now."

Stajan has never suffered an injury of this magnitude in the six seasons he's played in the NHL. The unpredictable healing time associated with shoulder maladies has the centerman aggravated but determined to do everything he can to get back to work.

"Other than an eye injury, a freak eye injury I had a few years back I haven't missed any time so this is new for me and it's not fun. It's been two days and I already want to get back at it. We'll do what needs to be done and hopefully make it as quick as possible and be back helping the guys.

"Right now it's still fresh so a lot of icing and I don't think I'll be on the ice right away, just in case you fall, you don't want to reinjure it that way. I'll be doing a lot of bike work and as soon as I can get on the ice, I will. I want to keep my skating legs so hopefully that's sooner rather than later."

OPPORTUNITIES OPEN UP

With Stajan and Langkow out indefinitely, roster spots at the center position have opened up greatly. Mikael Backlund is the frontrunner for a spot in the lineup and while he feels badly for his teammates, he knows his opportunity to make a big statement with the coaching staff is now.

"First off, I feel bad for those guys. You never want to see a teammate injured. It happened and we've got to look forward now. For me, of course it looks better now. I get more opportunities now and I'm just going to go out and play like I did before, just work hard. I can't do anything else. I just have to focus on myself and do my job and help the team win games."

Head coach Brent Sutter was quick to point out the young forward gained valuable experience last season when he was able to play in 23 games with Flames and has the skillset to easily make the roster.

"He just needs to keep playing like he’s playing. He’s a very good well-rounded player. I think he showed last year when he came in and played here. He didn’t look out of place at all and he got thrown into some key situations and key spots. That’s going to be no different for him right now at this point in time."

Backlund beamed when he was told of his coaches comments.

"It feels good, of course. You always want to hear coaches say good things about you, positive stuff. You want to hear good feedback. It feels good that they're confident in me and it helps me be more confident as a player too."

The club is adament their centers need to be extremely responsible in all three zones and ice time will be given out to those players who can play well defensively. Backlund understands this and believes this style meshes perfectly with his.

"I know they want all the centers to be two-way centers and I've been working on it for a couple of years, being really responsible in the defensive zone. Especially last year, in the minors, I worked a lot on it. When I was up here too in the NHL.

I've been working on it a lot and I'm a lot more confident and better in the defensive zone. The way they want me to play, it fits me good."

Expectations for Backlund run the gamut from putting up 70 points to being a defensive specialist that puts up 40 points. The 21 year-old doesn't have any expecations of himself, however, maintaining he's simply focusing on working hard and developing his skills.

"I don't want to put any pressure on myself, saying I'm going to put so many points," he smiled. ""I don't expect myself to put up 70 points. I'm just going to go out and do my job every day and work hard.

"I just want to be a good two-way center and be really responsible."

QUOTABLE

"He got put into a wing spot here when he came to the Flames, but he played centre ice here through college and through leading up to college. It’s his natural position. He just now has to get used to it again. I wasn’t here for the game the other night because I was in Vancouver with the other team. For what I’m told he was very good down the middle. We’ll see how it unfolds. It’s an experiment right now, but it’s certainly worth trying." - Sutter on utilizing David Moss as a center

"It’s kind of like riding a bike. You get used to certain things as time goes on. Hopefully as camp goes on you get more comfortable." - Moss on his new role

"It was weird. He didn't get hit that hard, it was the way he got hit. I've had that same shoulder injury and you just don't know. You hope it's two weeks, it might be four, it could be six. You don't know." - Craig Conroy on Stajan's injury

"You feel bad for those guys but for the rest of us, it's an opportunity and a chance we're going to grab hold of and try to run with." - Conroy on the injuries to Stajan and Langkow