Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Canucks
News and notes from the morning skate prior to the Flames contest against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Calgary Flames announced on Sunday morning that they have recalled centre Markus Granlund from the Abbotsford Heat.
Granlund has been rock solid in his rookie season in the American Hockey League, collecting 13 goals and 11 assists in 29 outings.
The 20-year-old Finnish product came over to North America this season after spending the past three seasons suiting up for Helsinki in SM-liiga.
“It’s a big opportunity,” said Granlund. “I’m just a young kid and this is my dream. Now I’m here and I have to do my best.”
Flames forward Paul Byron spent some time playing with Granlund in Abbotsford this season and has nothing but praise for the young pivot.
“I played with him in Abbotsford,” Byron said. “He’s my centerman. He’s a great player, very smart, well positioned and he’s got an offensive side to him, obviously. He’s a good player. He makes good plays.”
Byron also commented on Granlund’s two-way game.
“The thing that’s made him successful in Abbotsford is being well positioned on the ice. Be good defensively.
“That earns a lot of trust in the coaches when he knows he can put you on in any situation and not try to worry too much about getting pucks to other players. Just concentrate on playing his game and making the right plays out there.”
Flames coach Bob Hartley thinks Granlund’s solid play in Abbotsford this season has given him the shot he deserves.
“I talk with (Abbotsford coach) Troy (Ward) on a weekly basis and obviously there’s quite a few guys right now.” Hartley said. “We wanted a centerman because in the event that Backs can’t go. It might be just for tonight. It might be just for a couple games. We don’t know but the thing is Markus Granlund has been playing very well. He deserves it.”
Flames pivot Mikael Backlund missed practice yesterday and wasn’t around for the morning skate on Sunday. It’s not known what ailment Backlund might have but it’s obvious he needs some rest.
Hartley indicated the 24-year-old will be a game time decision and if he’s unable to go, Granlund will make his NHL debut.
“Backs’ going to be a game-time decision,” Hartley said. “I talked to him and he feels that he could be in. There’s no sense in putting him in this morning. You guys and I will find out basically at the same time.
“We called up Granlund in the case that Backlund can’t go. If Backlund goes, Granlund won’t go and if Backs don’t go, Granlund will go.”
Hartley went on to say that Backlund’s injury is minor and the injury bug is nothing new to the club.
“We’re going to sit with the medical staff this afternoon and obviously we’ll establish a plan because we appreciate what players want to do, especially in a minor injury like this.
“The medical might staff might say, if they say it’s his own decision, they feel that there’s no big dangers.
“We’re approaching the midway point of the season. How many NHL players are playing at 100 percent right now? If it would be the case, we might be short of players in basically every game. We’ll trust Backs’ judgement. We already told him, ‘If you feel like you’re not capable of helping us, there’s nothing wrong (with sitting)’. Especially at center with the battle we’ve been having with all our young centers, I’m sure that no one wants to give their spot. That’s a credit to them but at the same time, we have to make sure that we do the right thing for the player. In an injury like this, you can have the best doctors around. No one feels like Mikael Backlund’s body better than he does.”
CANUCKS WELL RESTED
The Vancouver Canucks have enjoyed lengthy a six day break. They last hit the ice on December 22nd and came away with a 2-1 victory on home ice over the Winnipeg Jets.
The Canucks have been red hot as of late with only two losses in their last 11 contests. It has also been difficult for opponents to find the back of the net as they have only allowed 18 goals against in that span.
Vancouver will be without the services of Roberto Luongo who sustained a lower body injury in 2-1 win over the Jets one week ago. Eddie Lack will slot in to replace Luongo. Lack has participated in 11 matches this season and sports a 1.93 GAA accompanied by a .928 save percentage.
ON THE SHELF
Dennis Wideman skated again today and is expected to return to the lineup soon. He suffered a broken hand on November 27th in the Flames 3-2 setback to Chicago.
Kris Russell and Curtis Glencross were both placed on injured reserve last week. Russell will miss the next 4-5 weeks with a 2nd degree MCL sprain while Glencross sustained a high ankle sprain in Pittsburgh on December 21st.
Blair Jones is also out indefinitely with a meniscal tear.
This is the second meeting between Vancouver and Calgary. The Canucks prevailed 5-4 in overtime in the Flames home opener on October 6th.
"We never say no to a physical battle and again, that’s part of the culture that we want to create over here.”
-Hartley comments on the physical play of the Western Conference.
Today's game will be aired on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The FAN at 5:30 PM MST.