This morning’s optional skate for the Calgary Flames was surprisingly newsworthy, as a trio of inter-related news items dropped simultaneously.
The most newsworthy morsel is likely that forward Morgan Klimchuk has been re-assigned to the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat, which opens up a spot for Troy Brouwer as he returns from his facial injuries. Goaltender Mike Smith is also reportedly progressing and will be traveling with the team on their two-game road trip to Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Klimchuk made his NHL debut last night against Boston. He played just over seven minutes on the fourth line alongside Matt Stajan and Curtis Lazar. The rookie didn’t stand out one way or the other – he didn’t make incredibly dazzling plays, nor did he fail epically at any of his tasks – but he’s essentially victim of the roster numbers game right now.
Brouwer has been out since suffering facial fractures – damage to his cheekbone, sinus cavity and orbital bone – in a Feb. 8 game against New Jersey where he took a puck in the face, left briefly, but then finished the game. His return likely keeps Ryan Lomberg, a healthy scratch in Boston so that Klimchuk could play, on the sidelines. Brouwer probably slots in with Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski on the third line (bumping Garnet Hathaway to the fourth line) or with Stajan and Lazar on the fourth line.
Finally, Smith’s been out since being injured in the final seconds of the Flames’ Feb. 11 victory over the New York Islanders with a lower-body injury. He hasn’t skated with the team as of yet and that’s not guaranteed to happen on the road trip, but it leaves that option open. David Rittich will start against Vegas and, while it wasn’t announced, it seems a smart bet that Jon Gillies probably starts the next night in Arizona.