The Calgary Flames had back-to-back injury scares bracketing the holiday break.
Troy Brouwer played just 5:55 in the Flames’ final game before Christmas, forced to leave just before the end of the first period due to an unfortunately timed and placed Kris Versteeg shot. He didn’t return, and didn’t play in the Flames’ first game back, either; he’s out week-to-week with a broken finger.
Meanwhile, the Flames had another potential problem in their first game back. While killing a five-on-three penalty against the Colorado Avalanche, Mikael Backlund blocked a shot that left him with limited mobility. The kill essentially turned into a five-on-two, except Backlund is so good at this that even while barely able to skate he was still able to break up chances. He ended up not playing in the third period, but following the game it wasn’t expected his injury was serious, and indeed, he’s expected to be in the lineup when the Flames host the Ducks on Thursday.
All in all, the Flames got pretty lucky with these ones.
Fortunate Backlund is fine
Earlier Christian talked about what life without Backlund and life without Brouwer could be like for the Flames. Backlund would have been the bigger loss – not only does he anchor what has pretty much been the Flames’ best line all season, and is arguably the best player on the team this year, but he’s second in team scoring and averages 17:17 a game in a shutdown role.
While Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett are expected to score more, thanks to Backlund’s recent outburst of six points in his past two games (which we all know isn’t going to last, but still), Backlund has done more for the team offensively. Matt Stajan would be the centre expected to handle the other defensive roles – Monahan and Bennett are pretty sheltered – but he has just 14 points on the season; he doesn’t produce in the way Backlund does.
Simply put, the Flames don’t really have anyone who can replace Backlund. He makes the other centres’ lives easier while still providing for the team on both ends of the ice, and is one of the Flames’ top penalty killers. The fact that he isn’t expected to miss any time is incredibly fortunate.
Let’s put it this way: is there someone else you’d rather have out there against Ryan Getzlaf?
In the Flames’ practice lines, Freddie Hamilton slotted in on Backlund’s usual spot, seemingly an indicator that there weren’t any plans to change the lines in his absence.
Moving on without Brouwer
Remember when Brouwer collided with Versteeg and left the latter shaken up? Uh, vengeance?
Not really – Versteeg obviously felt horrible about the play, which was a total fluke accident. Nevertheless, Brouwer has had surgery, and is now week-to-week with a broken finger – the second such injury the Flames have experienced this season.
Johnny Gaudreau missed just 10 games with his injury before he returned to the lineup, well under the timeline that was actually expected for him. Perhaps there will be some fancy gloves in Brouwer’s future?
Ten games would have Brouwer out until at least mid-January.
In the meantime, the Flames are down a right winger: one who averages 17:08 a game, and after a fast start has been chipping in points here and there throughout the rest of the season. With 17 points in 36 games, Brouwer is currently eighth in team scoring; Versteeg, who has played 11 fewer games than he has, is one point back of him.
Brouwer’s injury saw both Lance Bouma and Garnet Hathaway slotted in on the fourth line against the Avalanche. This probably isn’t ideal, but with just 13 healthy forwards, the Flames have yet to announce any recalls (the Stockton Heat do, however, have a game tonight).
Still, with Brouwer expected to be out for some time, maybe they’ll bring someone up; on the other hand, they still have one extra player and by sticking with the status quo, they’ll save money on the cap.
The silver lining to this? At least Micheal Ferland should be getting more ice time – depending on what happens with the recall situation. Considering the positional loss – a top-nine right winger – who would you like to see called up in Brouwer’s absence?
Brouwer has been mostly healthy throughout his career, only missing one game in the past five seasons prior to joining the Flames. Still, it’s a reminder: injuries can happen to anybody at anytime.