'Crack on the Farm - Damaging Weekend

Aaron McCracken

March 11th, 2002

It's time to survey the damage.

Today the Saint John Flames will visit "ground zero" in New York City, a chance for the team to personally experience the damage and destruction from the events of September 11th. In an eerie coincidence, the Flames will be forced to reflect upon a very damaging weekend on the ice at the same time.

Not only did the Flames lose all three weekend games, they also lost three key players, all of whom could be gone for the rest of the season. Oleg Saprykin (broken foot), Alan Letang (knee), and Jermey Brown (knee) all suffered serious injuries on the weekend and won't be returning to action anytime soon, if at all this year.

The Flames managed to record one point in the three games, that coming in Friday's 3-2 overtime loss to Worcester. The team was outmatched in both Saturday and Sunday's games, losing 5-3 to Wilkes-Barre, and 3-0 to Bridgeport. In the process, the Flames (25-27-10-4, 64 points) lost their grip on a playoff spot and now sit four points behind 10th place Providence, who have two games at hand over the Flames.

Saint John will need to win the majority of their 14 remaining games in order to see the post-season, and that won't be an easy task without the services of Saprykin, Letang, and Brown, who joined Rick Mrozik, Mike Martin, and Jason Botterill in the sick bay. Only Botterill (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to return to action in the near future.

The Flames continue their eight-game road trip this week with stops in Albany (Wednesday), Portland (Thursday), Lowell (Friday), and Manitoba (Sunday).

Who's Hot? · Levente Szuper continues to be very impressive in net for the Flames, despite not winning in his last three outings. The sophomore Hungarian has started seven games in a row for Saint John, including three nights in a row this past weekend. Szuper is currently 3rd in the AHL with a GAA of 2.22.

· Ryan Christie has been the Flames best sniper of late - he is currently tied for the team lead with 17 goals and 10 power play markers.

· Garett Bembridge has finally started to produce on the ice after struggling for most of the season. The rookie RW now has 18 points and is taking a regular shift for the first time in his professional career.

Who's Not? · Burke Henry - The senior defenseman on the team right now continues to be inconsistent. He's the only Flames regular without a goal on the season.

· Most of the ECHL call-ups on the team. It's hard to blame a group of guys that don't belong on this team in the first place. The Flames' system is complex and requires strong skating ability… and most players called-up from the ECHL just can't perform up to expectations.

Vernon Watch · Mike Vernon's stint with Saint John was short-lived and uneventful. The 39 year-old didn't dress with the team on Sunday and left the team on Monday to rejoin the Calgary Flames.

News and Notes · The Flames recalled Dan Carlson (RW), Scott Bertoli (LW), Matt Libby (D), and Dany Sabourin (G) from the ECHL. Bertoli and Libby aren't likely to remain with the team, however, as the Flames will be shopping for replacements early this week. · The Flames signed Jeff Sullivan and Jeremy Brown to AHL contracts last week as their professional try-out agreements were about to expire.

Around the AHL · Rico Fata continues to light-up the AHL. The former Flames 1st round pick has 30 goals and 30 assists in 50 AHL games this season, and is third in the league at +24. · Daniel Tkaczuk is playing on the 3rd line in Worcerster and has 32 points (9G, 23A) this season. · The Flames had an AHL season high 60 shots on goal on March 2nd. This is the most shots in an AHL game in over three years.

Aaron McCracken can be reached at mccracken@calgarypuck.com.





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