SUN Hockey Pool

Just a phone call away

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The end's in sight.

The final pre-season game is finally at hand.

For the 20 or so Flames who are guaranteed a spot on the team when the curtain rises on the 2005-06 campaign, it's a happy time.

For the couple of youngsters trying to grab a spot, though, it's the last chance to make their best impression.

After tonight's clash in Vancouver, the Flames will pare down their roster for the Oct. 5 opener.

Expect to see one goaltender -- likely Brent Krahn -- along with defencemen Mark Giordano and Richie Regehr handed tickets to Omaha, Neb., where they'll join the AHL Knights.

Of the 16 forwards remaining in camp, 13 have one-way contracts and should have no problems remaining with the team, while Brantt Myhres is destined for the injured reserve list, having yet to return from his fight with Edmonton's Georges Laraque.

Which means, Lynn Loyns and Eric Nystrom are in the mix for the 14th spot, should GM/head coach Darryl Sutter opt to keep that many.

Judging by his comments yesterday, it's tough to imagine he'll go with the second extra forward.

"A lot of it depends on guys who are banged up," Sutter said. "We're starting on a road trip and all of those cities are an hour from Omaha. I'm not carrying an extra body if they're not playing, it's that simple. Especially the young guys, they're gonna play, that's the only way they're going to get better."

Still, Nystrom -- who has been solid while posting one goal and two assists in six pre-season tilts -- plans to try forcing Sutter to keep him.

"I definitely came here to make them try to find a way to put me in the lineup. I came here to make the Flames and I'm still saying that," said the 2002 first-round draft choice. "I just want it to be a tough decision for them to make, whether it's to send me down or keep me."

One player who won't get the chance tonight is Craig MacDonald. MacDonald, who has 110 NHL games under his belt, was sent to the minors yesterday.

"That's the way it goes and I'll be ready if they need me up here," said the 28-year-old forward. "I felt great. It's a tough lineup to crack and I felt I played well and did what I had to do.

"I'll go down there and help out, be the type of guy I am and be a leader, and try to show the guys how it's done."

There was some comfort for MacDonald, being given the impression from Sutter that, thanks to a strong camp, he'll be called upon when the usual injuries beset the team.

"He told me that," MacDonald said. "He said, 'I know what you can do. You can play any position and when we need you here, you'll be ready to go.' "

LACKING POWER: With the new NHL meaning plenty more penalties, reliance on powerplays will increase this season.

Which causes little concern in the Flames dressing room.

Through their first seven pre-season games, Calgary has clicked on only five of 68 man advantages, a paltry 7.4%, second worst in the NHL.

The club did practise it yesterday but Sutter downplayed the situation.

"Last (game) was pretty good early. We hit the three posts," he said. "Our defencemen have been really good. I think (Roman) Hamrlik, when he's been in the lineup, has been really good and he's been doing a good job dishing off to Dion (Phaneuf) -- who's been pounding it really well."

The team has made sweeping changes among its powerplay units. The first forward line includes newcomers Daymond Langkow and Tony Amonte with Jarome Iginla, while Phaneuf and Hamrlik are also learning about each other.

Jordan Leopold, normally on the first defence tandem, said it's just a matter of staying with the plans.

"We just have to work out the kinks and do it now because there's going to be points on the line," he said.


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