2 Oilers 1
play for real.
But who will do the
ended their exhibition schedule with a dramatic 2-1
victory over the Oilers in Edmonton last night, the
Flames finishing the pre-season at 4-2-1 but leaving
only a matter of hours or days before the final
rounds of cuts overtakes a scattered collection of
Craig Conroy stole
the puck from a flat-footed Jason Smith then fed a
seeing eye pass through a plethora of skates and
sticks to Jarome Iginla who one-timed a rocket over
a stunned Tommy Salo with only 20 seconds remaining
in the third.
Coach Darryl Sutter
will undoubtedly be praying that's the kind of
vintage kinetic connection he can expect through an
82 game regular season schedule, although his
immediate attention must be turning to more
Making the final
This is it, the
setting of the final roster . . . . except injuries
might allow for one or two players to survive,
however briefly, into the early season.
Sutter made it
clear on the FAN960 pre-game show that Matthew
Lombardi "has separated himself from the
pack" among the young forwards challenging for
Reinprecht questionable for opening night, Sutter's
statement would seem to point to Lombardi being one
of the survivors, yet the young centre logged only
7:11 in ice time last night, centering Robert Dome
and Krzysztof Oliwa/Dave Lowry.
Dome is another
bubble forward and in spite of putting up eight
points in six pre-season games was again limited to
around eight minutes in ice time in a fairly tepid
performance. One puzzle this pre-season has been
Dome's ice time typically hovering below those he
happens to be competing with, although playing in
almost every game.
Blair Betts, aside
from being turned inside out in the third period by
Georges Laraque of all people in the third period,
had an outstanding game with a skill goal from a
sharp angle and continues to impress with his
skating and overall game. He's obviously penciled in
as Calgary's fourth line centre but has shown he's
probably capable of more than that lowly position.
Betts logged 16:56 in ice time and represents an
excellent secondary weapon to Stephane Yelle as a
checking line pivot.
admitted in a pre-game conversation with the
Edmonton broadcast crew that he's been slow off the
mark this training camp, his skating, the bread and
butter of his game, still not a strength. His
concern might be that Iginla and Conroy appear to be
capable of getting along quite well without him.
served on wing with Yelle and Shean Donovan, one of
Calgary's most effective lines on the night.
Saprykin is another Flame who's had a less than
stellar training camp and one wonders if this might
be where he starts the season, as the skill guy on
the checking line while Martin Gelinas moves up a
spot to play with Steve Reinprecht and Chuck
For Kobasew a
workmanlike game although little in the way of
results but he's in no danger of not making this
Sutter claimed a
bunch of his young defence corps were largely
uncompetitive against the Oilers on Thursday night,
unable to handle Edmonton's speed and particularly
soft on the penalty kill.
Should we have been
surprised then to see Steve Montador (on for three
Oiler power play goals) and Jesse Wallin, two of the
three bubble boys competing for a single spot on the
roster, watching the Saturday contest from the press
That left Mike
Commodore drawing the lone straw into the lineup,
the hulking Flames defender logging 19:52 in ice
time in an effective performance.
You can read
ominous things into the lineup omissions ... or
nothing. After all, Jordan Leopold was on for four
of those Oiler power play goals on Thursday but
logged 19:30 in ice time on Saturday in a fine
The two steadiest
and most combative Flames would have probably been
Denis Gauthier, giver of numerous timely hits, and
Rhett Warrener who turned in a night only a connoisseur
of the defensive side of the game might have
appreciated. The duo played 18:07 and 21:05
As the competition
ratcheted up to a higher level through the
exhibition schedule, Andrew Ference's effectiveness
began to diminish. On for three of those Oiler power
play goals on Thursday night, he could just as
easily have been one of the defencemen Sutter was
complaining about but logged 22:37 in ice time and
had four shots on Saturday night. The question about
Ference will not be that he makes the team but
rather how much five on five play he might have when
Sutter finally puts together his full lineup.
The new improved
Roman Turek looks more confident in his footwork,
faster off his knees, more in control of his
At least in the
limited action he's seen.
Turek, of course,
like it or not, is the one lynchpin that has to work
if the Flames are to end their seven year playoff
drought. With only one goal allowed in the
pre-season the early reviews are good.
The other question,
perhaps the most intriguing question in training
camp, is who will back him up. Jamie McLennan had
perhaps the worst training camp for a goaltender in
Flames history and it was certainly interesting that
the second most impressive goaltender in camp, young
Brent Krahn, was also Turek's backup in the final
It would still be
hard to imagine Krahn, whom most would agree needs a
full season of health and a great deal of games in
the minors, actually sticking around in McLennan's
stead even though coach Sutter said early in camp
such a scenario was within the realm of possibility.
But it would also
seem certain that McLennan's days as a Flame are
numbered, the unflappable dressing room comedian
likely having shot the confidence of the coach so
badly that his departure via a trade or a buyout is
likely imminent in the first weeks of the season.
In that vein,
Sutter did concede that while there were players in
Friday's waiver draft the Flames were interested in,
they preferred to trade for those players rather
than simply claim them. An interesting comment
considering the McLennan situation and the backup
position in general.