Searching for more grit, Flames recall power forward Aliu
Flames fans chanted his name during a short stint at the end of last season, so the potential is there for a man who raises a ruckus
In desperate need of sheer size and nastiness, the Calgary Flames recalled right winger Akim Aliu Thursday from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League.
Head coach Bob Hartley foreshadowed the move Wednesday night by calling out his team for the failing to come to the defence of Joey MacDonald in the Calgary crease.
Los Angeles centre Trevor Lewis literally clobbered the Flames goaltender with only repercussions coming in the form of a minor penalty assessed by the officials.
Predictably, the reigning Stanley Cup champions dispatched the Flames 3-1.
Enter Aliu, the enigmatic power forward five points and 80 penalty minutes in 27 games this season on the farm.
“Super excited to be goin (sic) back up to Calgary playing in front of those fans,” Aliu (@Dreamer_Aliu) wrote on Twitter.
Reached Thursday night in Abbotsford, Aliu was scurrying around his apartment to pack his bags for another shot at proving himself in the show.
“This is super special,” he said via cellphone. “I’ve got about an hour to get to the airport here, and I just got back from a 12-day road trip with Abby.
“I don’t have anything ready.”
That’s pretty much how life works, isn’t it? The big calls come when we least expect them.
“I’m just super excited to get back up there and hopefully to stick,” said Aliu, 23. “I want to try and make an impact.”
At six-foot-three, 225 pounds, Aliu has the raw size and skill to make an impact. He is clearly capable of throwing the body and driving the opposition absolutely bonkers.
For proof, ask the Anaheim Ducks, who took 16 minutes in penalties in Game 82 last season in an effort to get back at the pugnacious youngster.
In his honour, the sellout crowd of 19,289 at the Saddledome chanted “Alloooo” to officially welcome the kid to the NHL.
“I think I’m pretty good at getting under the opponents’ skin,” Aliu said. “I’m just going to go out there and play my game and hopefully contribute to the best of my ability.”
After struggling in the early-going this season in Abby, Aliu did not even receive an invitation to Flames training camp in January.
But with Lance Bouma out for the entire year with a knee injury and general manager Jay Feaster still searching for sandpaper on the open market, this is Aliu’s turn for an audition in the grinder role.
Aliu learned of his promotion late Thursday afternoon when the Heat team bus arrived at the rink from the Abbotsford airport.
Head coach Troy Ward summoned Aliu into his office and broke the news.
“The first person I gave a call to was Jay Feaster just to thank him for all the things he’s done,” Aliu said. “He’s been incredible. And then I spoke to my mom and dad and my brother and also to my girlfriend.
“It’s surreal. It’s so exciting. I thought the first time I was called up would be the most exciting time, but this is definitely pretty special, too.”
To make room for Aliu, and the possible return of left winger Sven Baertschi from a hip flexor, the Flames dispatched Roman Horak and the beleaguered Blair Jones to the minors. The transaction leaves the Flames with just one natural centre on the roster in Matt Stajan.
Slapped on waivers last week, Jones is clearly in Hartley’s doghouse and will have to work his way to the organization’s good graces in the minors. In 11 games this season, Jones has just one assist.
Horak, 21, scored his first NHL goal of the season Sunday in Dallas on a line with fellow Czechs Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka.
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