SUN Hockey Pool

Ritchie itching to play

STEVE MacFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Byron Ritchie has been reunited with his former Florida Panthers linemate.

At least for a night.

The 5-ft. 10-in. centre will fill in for veteran Stephane Yelle between Shean Donovan and Marcus Nilson tonight when the Calgary Flames take on the Chicago Blackhawks in pre-season action at the Saddledome.

Ritchie and Nilson formed two thirds of the John Deere line with the Cats in 2003-04 before the latter was picked up by the Flames in exchange for a second-round pick at the trade deadline -- just in time to join in on Calgary's post-season party.

Craig MacDonald, the third member of the hard-working but short-lived Florida trio, is also in Flames camp but is expected to sit out tonight.

If Ritchie has his way, he'll contribute towards a new playoff run. He is eager to prove he can make an impact on GM/head coach Darryl Sutter's hard-working club.

"Should be fun," he said. "A good opportunity for myself (tonight) to show what we can do. Playing with Donovan, speed's going to be a big factor.

"We're going to take care of our own zone first," the Burnaby, B.C., product added. "I'll try and get the puck to the wingers as much as I can. Dono can fly down the wing. Hopefully we can create some stuff down low and use our speed to our advantage."

One of Sutter's free-agent signings from the summer of 2004, Ritchie was ecstatic upon coming to the Western Conference champions. He has worked hard to impress but won't relax until he's on the final roster.

"I'm not totally satisfied," Ritchie said of his training camp so far. "There's always room for improvement but I thought I skated fairly well in the intra-squad game and then a little bit better in the Edmonton game. Hopefully I can just keep improving on it."

Ritchie has toiled for a number of teams in the AHL and IHL with varying degrees of success. In 144 NHL games, Ritchie has just 27 points. But he was twice a 50-goal scorer with the WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes and, if given opportunity and the right linemates, has the potential to contribute offensively while also playing a tight-checking defensive game.

A year in Calgary might be the right tonic.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to come to such a great team that expects to win every night," said Ritchie. "The dressing room's full of guys with character. It makes it a lot of fun to come to the rink every day."


Videos

Photos