Darryl Sutter has been trying to get a good look at how his initial line combinations are working out. There's a problem, though: All the penalties under the new NHL rules are making it difficult to assess the players in five-on-five action.
At this point, heading into the third pre-season game, the Calgary Flames GM/head coach would like to evaluate young players such as Eric Nystrom, Tomi Maki and Brandon Prust. But he needs the team to adapt to the strict guidelines first.
"Now you want to look at legitimate kids in situations they should be in," Sutter said yesterday. "How are you going to get them in that situation if it's 5-on-4, 4-on-3, 5-on-3?"
Having assigned a chunk of the Flames training camp roster to the AHL Omaha Knights, Sutter hopes the penalty box door will swing a little less.
"As we get further into the games we're going to get less penalties," he said. "A lot of the penalties, too, with us in (Saturday's 5-4 pre-season loss to) Chicago were kids that weren't ready for the program. Things were happening a little bit faster than they were used to. They used the stick to slow things down and that's a penalty."
Tonight's projected lineup includes the second line of Steve Reinprecht, Chris Simon and Chuck Kobasew, while Byron Ritchie subs for Stephane Yelle with Marcus Nilson and Shean Donovan. Youngsters Maki and Prust will likely join Jason Wiemer. Nystrom practised yesterday with Matt Lombardi and Darren McCarty.
BIG CHANCE: Eric Nystrom has another chance to shine tonight. He's one of the favourites to occupy one of the 23 roster spots -- should GM/head coach Darryl Sutter decide to keep that many.
"I'm pretty excited," said Nystrom, who will line up with Darren McCarty and Matt Lombardi. "They're great players. It's going to be awesome, especially playing back at the 'Dome."
The 22-year-old left-winger from the University of Michigan knows the fans are going to be pumped up.
"It's the first time these guys have been on the ice for a while," he said. "The fans are itching for some hockey and this is the first taste they're going to get."
ICE CHIPS: Defensive pairings in yesterday's practice were Dion Phaneuf and Roman Hamrlik, Steve Montador with Andrew Ference and Jordan Leopold teaming with Robyn Regehr.