Aliu excited, Butler surprised, Stajan on top
Flames rookie to add ‘energy and fire’ to Flames’ lineup
When Akim Aliu was called up for the final two games of the 2011-12 National Hockey League season, the power forward left a lasting impression and added spark to the Calgary Flames lineup.
But, perhaps more importantly, he got under the skin of the opponents — a job which he intends to resume Saturday at 8 p.m. MT against the Minnesota Wild, his second shot with the big club.
“That’s going to be my role here,” said Aliu on Friday at the Scotiabank Saddledome after being summoned from the Abbotsford Heat on Thursday. “I’m going to try to bring some energy and fire into the dressing room. This is a really good team here. There is a ton of skill and if we can get a bit of energy and spunk in here, we’ll be a really good team.”
Aliu scored two goals and had an assist in Games 81 and 82 last year. He also forced the Anaheim Ducks to collect 16 penalties in reaction to his play.
No question, the 23-year-old understands the expectations of him and he knows why he’s here. As such, he was immediately pencilled in on the Flames’ fourth line with Steven Begin and Tim Jackman during Friday’s skate.
“Super excited,” Aliu said. “It feels like it’s happening all over again. It feels like my first game again. I wasn’t here for too long last year. So, it’s super exciting.
“I’m happy to be here and hopefully I’ll be able to contribute any way I can.”
Aliu struggled at the beginning of the American Hockey League season and was left off the invite list to Calgary’s condensed training camp when the lockout ended in early January. But, with sandpaper forward Lance Bouma shelved for the entire year with a knee injury, it could turn into an extended stay if Aliu provides the grit the Flames are looking for.
Meanwhile, memories are still fresh of what it’s like in these parts.
“It was almost like a day dream,” said Aliu who he has recorded five points and 80 penalty minutes in 27 games with the Heat. “Excitement going through the room. Guys were unbelievable to me, that’s what I remember the most. How good the guys and the fans were to me. That’s what I remember the most.
“Hopefully, I can re-create that feeling.”
BUTLER TAKEN ABACK BY RUFF’S FIRING
Chris Butler was just as surprised as anyone to hear Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff had been fired earlier this week.
The 26-year-old Calgary Flames defenceman was drafted by the team in 2005 and played three seasons for the longtime boss who had been behind the Buffalo bench for 15 years.
“He’d been there for such a long time that it just sort of felt like he was going to be there forever,” Butler said. “I think he had a tremendous working relationship between he and (Sabres general manager) Darcy (Regier). It was a good partnership. He had a lot of success.”
Ruff had also been around for a lengthy time, surviving 170 NHL coaching changes over the years. He leaves the Sabres with a 571-432-78-84 regular season record and took them to the 1999 Stanley Cup final.
Butler said he had a positive experience under Ruff. But as for the decision? A tough call.
“I don’t know if it’s for me to say if it was time for him to leave,” Butler said. “It says a lot about the type of coach Lindy was, to be there that long. You look at Barry Trotz, who has done a great job in Nashville and has been there for pretty much the same amount of time and they continue to have success.
“I think Buffalo has been a playoff contender for many years … I think they’ve done a tremendous job of developing that team from inside out. Drafting players. Developing players. They’ve kept their core together for a long time. To say if it was time for him to leave, I’m not sure.”
STAJAN GETS SHOT AT TOP LINE
When Matt Stajan arrived in Calgary three years ago, he came advertised as a possible first-line centre for Jarome Iginla.
Tumultuous times have ensued for the former Toronto Maple Leaf, but head coach Bob Hartley promised every player a clean sheet of ice heading into this lockout shortened season.
And there Stajan was at practice on Friday in between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla. Clearly in the coach’s good graces, Stajan is ready to embrace the challenge.
“I played with those guys in the past a bit last year and the year before,” said Stajan, who has one goal and six points in 15 games. “I’ll try to get them the puck in good spots so they can make plays, and hopefully we can get the offence going that we need.”
Stajan, this season, is one of several Flames players guilty of passing too often instead of firing on net.
“Yeah, I think that’s something that I’ve got to work on is taking the shot when it’s there,” he said. “I think for me and Tangs, we’ve got to make sure we’re shooting when we get the chance. But we’ll read off each other well. We know our tendencies pretty well, all three of us.”
The Calgary Flames and Michael Cammalleri personally wanted to thank the honest souls who returned his 200th goal puck. So, in exchange, Trevor and Stacey Adair, their kids Sam and Juliana, Jeff and Julie Talbott, and their kids Nicole and Brandon, toured the Saddledome on Friday, the Flames dressing room, and met the forward who had made a public plea for the return of his puck after scoring it as part of a hat-trick he netted in a 7-4 win over the Dallas Stars … The Flames had a couple of guest coaches on Friday: Louis Wattenbarger and Jared Dielwart of Red Deer. The two won the opportunity at a charity auction and, after practice, were taken out for lunch by the coaching staff.
With files from Vicki Hall
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