April 08 2014 03:27PM
Gang, I'm back in the saddle after being in New Orleans all weekend for WrestleMania festivities. If you ever get the chance to visit the city, do so.
Anyhow, here's a quick rundown of what's happening right now, as the Flames prepare for the first of their final three games of the 2013-14 NHL season tomorrow against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Flames are presently without the services of Ladislav Smid, Dennis Wideman, Tyler Wotherspoon, David Jones, Markus Granlund and Mikael Backlund due to injury, and Matt Stajan and Paul Byron due to personal matters. That's a lot of talent on the sidelines.
Based on last night's game, coach Hartley has adapted by rolling four lines almost uniformly. The strategy hedges their bets a bit; they don't ride their better players too much (and risk burning them out), but they also probably use their lesser lights (such as Bryce van Brabant, Kevin Westgarth, Brian McGrattan and others) more than they typically would.
The Flames have a 34-38-7 record heading into the last few games, exactly where the pre-season over/under for points (74.5) pegged them heading into the season. They're clustered in with the New York Islanders in terms of year-end standings – Buffalo's a lock for dead-last, followed by Florida and Edmonton in some order – so the last three games are important for Calgary in terms of draft positioning alone. They'll most likely draft fifth overall.
NHL's Central Scouting announced their final rankings today. Players probably available around where Calgary drafts? Europeans include Finnish winger Kasperi Kapanen (Sami's son) and Swedish forward William Nylander (Michael's son). Leon Draisaitl, Michael dal Colle and Jake Virtanen are North Americans that could be available at 5. Of course, somebody above could slide.
The Heat won two games this week, creeping ever-closer to cementing their playoff status. They need three points to clinch and have five games left. Sven Baertschi was named Player of the Week for stepping up in a major-league way, putting up seven points in those two games.
The Heat have also added six players on amateur try-out deals: Swift Current's Coda Gordon, U-Mass Lowell goalie Doug Carr, Tri-City forward Jessey Astles, Prince Albert's Collin Valcourt, Quinnipiac defender Zach Tolkinen and Clarkson forward Allan McPherson. Valcourt and Astles were both teammates of Michael Ferland with the Saskatoon Blades last season and were probably well-scouted by the Flames. Both are pretty physical players, but neither are offensive juggernauts. Gordon needs a good showing to get a contract and prove that he's not just a guy on a hot junior line (with Graham Black and Colby Cave).
If the playoffs began now, they'd open against the Chicago Wolves – St. Louis's farm team (which juuust lost former Heat D-man Mark Cundari to the Flames).
Boston College plays Union College on Thursday at 5pm MT. The game will be available on TSN2. Watch the game. Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold could be playing their last college game. But if they win, they advance to Saturday's NCAA Championship game, which goes at 5:30pm MT on TSN2. Again, THE GAMES WILL BE TELEVISED.
Gaudreau will almost definitely win the Hobey Baker on Friday, while Arnold will be awarded an enthusiastic high-five from Gaudreau for being a good teammate and linemate.
Providence College goalie Jon Gillies will be returning to the Friars for his junior season.
Of the remaining junior kids still active: Victoria (Keegan Kanzig) trail Portland 2-1, Brandon (Eric Roy) trails Edmonton 2-0, Gatineau (Emile Poirier) trails Halifax 2-0 and Drummondville (Ryan Culkin) and Val-d'Or are tied 1-1.