It sure looks like Lance Bouma, who has missed 30 games with injury, will be officially back tonight. That still may not be the case – he’s a game-time decision – but the fact that he has now been activated off the injury reserve is just another sign that points towards his return.
In order to keep the roster at 23 players, however, a move had to be made: putting Michael Frolik, who is expected to miss a few weeks with an upper body injury, on the injured reserve.
It’s not a good trade off, but it’s really the only thing the team can do.
Bouma is projected to start on the fourth line alongside Matt Stajan and David Jones, helping form a line that variations of have seen success in the past. We know Stajan and Jones tend to work well together, and Bouma and Jones were both Mikael Backlund’s wingers throughout the second half of the 2014-15 season.
Considering how much Bob Hartley loves (or at least, loved) putting Bouma and Backlund on the same line, this seems to point towards the idea of Backlund getting bigger minutes, and a focus on easing Bouma back into the lineup rather than throwing him to the wolves. After all, it’s not like he could consistently skate with a leg injury; throwing him back into a big role in an NHL game probably wouldn’t be the best idea.
Then again, line shuffling is a very real thing with this team, so who knows where he actually ends up throughout the night? (Presuming, once again, that he does indeed play.)
In his first three games this season, Bouma had yet to make an impact on the scoreboard. That probably won’t last much longer, but it’s difficult to see him matching last season’s points totals, when he scored 34 in 78 games. He was the beneficiary of a career-high 15.4% shooting percentage in 2014-15, but the Flames’ shooting percentage has collectively dropped, and he likely won’t be an exception as he probably regresses along with the rest of his team.
It’s a far cry from Frolik, who was on pace for 44 points before his injury: totals he has been close to throughout his career when used in a top-six role.
The Flames are short on top six forwards, and Bouma likely isn’t the answer – at least not tonight as he makes his return to the game for the first time since Oct. 13.