The Canadiens are in Calgary for the first of their four game road trip on Tuesday against the Flames, but they won’t be seeing Mike Cammalleri.
The former Hab, who was exchanged for Rene Bourque on Jan. 12, is out with the ubiquitous upper body injury, and no one seems to know how it happened. Plus — as the traveling Mike Boone reports — he was not made available to the media by the Calgary organization on Monday.
Some around the Flames speculate Cammalleri may have been injured when a puck shot by Olli Jokinen hit him in the throat last Friday in Anaheim (a game the Flames lost in the last minute of regulation), but coach Brent Sutter denied that. Others have speculated he may be suffering the after-effects from one of two incidents on Sunday, an elbow from the Stars Sheldon Souray or an open-ice hit by the Stars Steve Ott.
His absence will put a hole in the middle of Calgary second line, Cammalleri having been shifted to centre by Sutter in mid-February, and it seems to have been a good move once the 29-year-old Cammalleri adjusted to his new surroundings. He had nine points (4g, 5a) in the previous 12 games. He’s got five goals and 11 points total in 21 games since the trade.
As Boone quoted from Sutter’s remarks to the media, the Flames will miss his puck moving talents. “I like him having the puck in his hands,” Sutter said. “In the neutral zone, making plays. He’s a skilled player, a shooter, but I like the play in his own zone, working with the defence and coming through the neutral zone, he has the puck on his stick.”
His absence is forcing Sutter to move his third and fourth line centres — Matt Stajan and Roman Horak — one notch up the depth chart.
The Flames have also suffered injuries to two other forwards in the last few games — and they’ve had injury problems all year with the likes of veteran Lee Stempniak, promising young centre Mikael Backlund and depth forward Blair Jones and defenceman Chris Butler all on IR.
Among the newest casualties, Blake Comeau picked up a shoulder injury last week and he’s out for two-three weeks and Lance Bouma left Sunday’s game with an upper body injury that will force him to miss Tuesday’s game as well.
So the Flames reached down into their AHL Abbortsford Heat club Monday and recalled an entire forward line — Guillaume Desbiens, Krys Kolanos and Greg Nemisz. It’s projected they will play as the fourth trio against the Habs. “I decided I wanted to bring up one full line and have three guys that can come in and play together and are used to playing with each other,” Sutter said.
This is a significant game for Calgary, who look to be as fragile mentally as they are physically. They’ve won only once in their last seven. They were in eighth spot in mid-February but have fallen back to 11th in the West, three points behind the eighth place Sharks, who have two games in hand on the Flames.
Their big failing has been on home ice (something the Canadiens know about) where they’ve not won in their past five outings (0-2-3) and they scored first in each of those games. They’re in the middle of a stretch in which they’ll end up playing nine of 11 at home, but it hasn’t gone well. They now have a 16-10-5 record in the Saddledome.
And they don’t play well against the East. They’re 4-7-5 against the Eastern clubs so far and after they play the Habs, they host the Jets.
More bad signs: The Flames were outshot 40-38 by Dallas and have been outshot for 13 consecutive games.
Still, they are in the race. “We keep going,” captain Jarome Iginla said. “There’s lots of hockey to be played … lots of points left. We need to put a string together. We know we need to win a good share of those games, but we believe we can do that.”
With Miikka Kiprusoff in goal, that’s certainly possible. The Flames workhorse has seen more pucks than most NHL netminders (his 1526 saves are third most in the league) and his save percentage of .921 is quite good for that amount of work. His 57 appearances are also third in the league.
Henrik Karlsson is his backup, but when the Flames plan to rest Kiprusoff, as they did against Anaheim Friday, they’ll again call up rookie Leland Irving, who played well against the Ducks, to start.
Here’s a guess on how the banged-up Flames might look Tuesday. Boone points out the game will be the 600th of ex-Hab Tom Kostopoulos’s career.
Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross, Matt Stajan, David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos, Roman Horak, Tim Jackman
Guillaume Desbiens, Greg Nemisz, Krys Kolanos
Derek Smith, Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano, Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie, Cory Sarich