As the Calgary Flames desperately try to stay in the playoff race despite a long and growing injured list, they're looking for help from a player they didn't expect to have just yet.
The crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome will be buzzing Friday night because of Sven Baertschi, who is expected to make his NHL debut as the Flames try to deny the Winnipeg Jets franchise its first-ever win in Calgary.
"He's got a gift that is phenomenal," Flames coach Brent Sutter said of his team's 19-year-old prospect. "He can skate, he can shoot, he can handle the puck, he's fast."
That's why Calgary (30-25-12) drafted Baertschi in the first round with the 13th overall pick last year.
The Swiss winger has averaged 2.0 points per game this season with Portland of the WHL, putting up 33 goals and 61 assists in 47 contests, although that has come against junior competition. He was only eligible to be recalled because of the Flames' dire injury woes, with eight regulars possibly sidelined Friday.
"He's gonna get thrown to the wolves here. It's an exciting thing for him, obviously," Sutter said. "We're excited about putting him in the lineup. It's an unfortunate situation that it had to get to where it is because of our injury situation, but at the same time, he's getting an opportunity."
That's specifically because of an injury to right wing Tim Jackman during Tuesday's 5-4 win over Montreal. Among those already out were Michael Cammalleri, Lee Stempniak and Blake Comeau.
"As soon as I got the call, I was so excited," Baertschi said. "I'm crazy nervous, but I think that's normal."
Captain Jarome Iginla has been doing his best to lead the depleted Flames with four goals and two assists in his last four games. He scored twice against the Canadiens while Curtis Glencross added two assists and scored a goal for the fifth straight game.
That victory snapped an 0-2-3 stretch at home for Calgary, which is 11th in the crowded Western Conference but only three points out of a playoff spot.
"We've been going through a tough stretch and sometimes when it goes like that, you just need to get that one to get over that hump," Iginla said. "It's not pretty, but it's still a very important win for us and breaks a bad streak at home and something to build on."
Winnipeg (32-28-8) will be trying to regroup after squandering a third-period lead in a 3-2 loss Thursday at Vancouver. The Jets missed an opportunity to tie Florida for the Southeast Division lead, instead slipping into a tie with Washington for eighth place in the East.
Blake Wheeler scored his fifth goal in as many games to put the Jets ahead early in the final period, but the Canucks rallied to hand Winnipeg just its second regulation loss in 10 games.
The bulk of that 6-2-2 stretch came during an eight-game homestand, but goalie Ondrej Pavelec admitted his team just doesn't have the same swagger on the road.
"That's the big elephant in the room," Pavelec said. "At home we're flying around, the crowd's roaring, we're scoring goals. On the road we don't do the same things."
As a result, they're 11-18-4 away from home, winning in regulation just once in their last 11. The franchise went 0-5-0 in Calgary as the Atlanta Thrashers.
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