Morning Skate Report: Flames @ Kings
BACKS IS BACK
The Flames announced earlier today that pivot Mikael Backlund was activated from injured reserve after missing 14 games.
The 23-year-old was sidelined February 7th against the Columbus Blue Jackets when he fell awkwardly and strained his knee.
A product of the 2007 entry draft, Calgary's first round selection (24th overall), Backlund had a strong start to the 2012-13 campaign with the Flames putting up three goals and adding an assist in eight contests. His frustration showed when he went down with an injury, especially after his injury-riddled campaign in 2011-12 where he only suited up for 41 games.
"It was tough," said the product of Vasteras, Sweden. "I was really sad and frustrated when it happened but the next day I recovered and just stayed positive and focused."
"I knew it could have been up to six weeks but I decided I wanted to be back sooner up to three to four weeks and I stayed positive to come back quicker than I was supposed to."
Head coach Bob Hartley will be happy to have a natural pivot back in the lineup as well. The Flames have seen a number of line combinations in the past few weeks with several wingers making the transition to the middle. He's also looking forward to seeing Backlund pick up where he left off in early February.
"It's his first game back and I hope it's a great one," Hartley quipped. "But at the same time we will put him in all kinds of situations to give him the feel of the game and he's going to be great for us.
It's not yet determined who Backlund will be sharing the ice with as line-mates but it's expected it will be on one of the top two units.
BAERTSCHI RETURNS TO ABBOTSFORD
The Flames also announced today that they have reassigned rookie forward Sven Baertschi to the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League.
Baertschi was a healthy scratch last night when the Flames suffered a 4-0 setback to the Ducks and the club decided it would be a better long-term solution to have him log more ice in the American Hockey League.
"I want him to have fun again, I want him on top of his game and I want him in every situation," Flames general manager Jay Feaster said after the Flames optional skate in Los Angeles. "He'll play a lot of minutes down there. They are starving for the kind of creativity and goal scoring ability he has right now. He's going to kill penalties and he's going to be on the first powerplay unit.
"As I told him today I want the game to be fun again and I want him to be able to do it away from the glare and the spotlight and the expectations of the National Hockey League."
Baertschi made quite an impact in his short five-game stint with the big club last season. He notched three goals and quickly became the talk of the town. In the 2012-13 season, Baertschi had no goals and collected one assist in 10 games. The 20-year-old is still considered the Flames top prospect in the organization and Feaster thinks it's the best thing for the young forward's development.
"The reality here is we are in a sprint and as Bob (Hartley) said every game we play is like a game seven and that's our approach."
"So rather than have him play eight minutes a game or sit on the bench we want want him to play. As I told him, we believe very, very strongly in Sven Baertschi and we are very high on him.
"This is not a negative, it's part of the development process and we beleive he's going to be a better player for it and we will be a stronger organization as a result of it."
Michael Cammalleri remembered being a young player in the league when he was a highly touted prospect in the Los Angeles Kings organization. He says it's never easy going through that transition.
"It's not easy for a guy like Sven," Cammalleri said. "I remember going through it and you feel like you can help the team and you don't understand the dynamics of the business yet and so sometimes it's a difficult thing."
"Looking back on it now you can make more sense of it but at the time you feelthe pressure. Knowing Sven he's a tremendous talent and a really good person and he will do well and be back soon."
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
The Flames put fourth a valiant effort last night in Anaheim but came up short in a disappointing 4-0 loss to the Ducks.
They out shot their opponent 10-4 in the first frame but found themselves down by a goal heading into the dressing room.
Controlling the play for the first half of the game they ran into a hot goaltender as netminder Viktor Fasth stopped everything the Flames could muster. Anaheim capitalized on an opportunity in the second to take a 2-0 lead and Calgary couldn't find their way again.
"The first couple of periods we had some good sustained pressure," said Cammalleri. "It's important in the half-court offence when you are in zones to try to create second and third effort chances and we like to be quick on pucks to create those chances so that allows you to create offence and keeps the puck out of your end."
"The unfortunate part is we were unable to capitalize."
The Flames don't get much time to regroup. In an interesting installment of the schedule where they will battle the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings twice in three nights.
"It's a normal process to regroup in this business," coach Bob Hartley said. "We are in a situation where we are three games in four nights with a back-to-back so it's the job of an NHL coach and an NHL player to regroup."
The Kings are coming off a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Stars on Thursday but they have only a pair of losses in their past nine games. The Kings stormed into the Scotiabank Saddledome on February 9th and left with a 3-1 victory over the Flames in the only contest this season between the clubs.
Flames bench boss Bob Hartley liked what he saw in the first half of last night's game and hopes for a full effort tonight.
If we play every game the same as we played the first 30 minutes last night I'll take that any night and we are going to win many games," said Hartley. "Watching the game again this morning we could have played for a full week against that goalie last night and we would have never scored a goal.
"We did lots of good things but we couldn't beat that goalie."