Better late than never

SCOTT FISHER, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Riley Merkley isn't about to look the gift horse in the mouth. After being left off the original roster for next week's Home Hardware CHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver, the Calgary Hitmen forward received an invitation one day later.

Merkley and Chad Denny of the Lewiston MAINEiacs were added as injury replacements for Wednesday's tilt featuring the top 40 draft eligible players in junior hockey.

"I'm pretty excited," Merkley said. "It was a little disappointing when I wasn't named first of all but I was surprised to be named later. Somebody got hurt but I guess I'll take it.

"I was hoping I would be there in the first place and I was trying not to think about (being left off the roster). Then I found out the next day I made it anyway."

In 2002, former Hitmen power forward Brandon Segal also received an invitation to the prospects game through the back door. The Nashville Predators draft pick made the most of his opportunity and Merkley is looking to do the same.

"It's a big opportunity, you don't have anything to lose," said Merkley, who will join teammate Dustin Kohn at the event.

"It's a lot better to have somebody to go with," Merkley said. "It might be a little boring by myself."

But before he climbs on a plane for Vancouver, Merkley and Co. have some business at the Saddledome to take care of in the form of the Kamloops Blazers (tonight, 7 p.m.) and Regina Pats (tomorrow, 5 p.m., Sportsnet).

The Blazers struggled through the first half of the season and certainly didn't make themselves better at the trade deadline when they shipped captain Jared Lukin to Medicine Hat. But reigning CHL goaltender Devan Dubnyk, a Calgary product, is on fire.

"We haven't played them this year, so we don't know a lot about them," Merkley said of the Blazers.

"But they have Dubnyk and we all know he's a pretty good goalie.

"We can't take anybody lightly."

The Hitmen likely will welcome back sniper Ryan Getzlaf (elbow), who hasn't played since returning from the world junior tourney, and overager Shaun Landolt (neck).

Rookie Keegan Dansereau (shoulder) won't dress, while Konstantin Pushkarev sat out yesterday's practice with the flu and will be a game-time decision.


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