SUN Hockey Pool

Battle stations!

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Jim Playfair doesn't want to hear the Calgary Flames' opening-night roster is a fait accompli.

The new head coach doesn't believe his lineup is already set, with 13 forwards, two goalies and five defencemen on one-way deals, along with Dion Phaneuf to add to the mix.

Playfair insists the training camp, which begins tomorrow -- today is the annual golf tournament -- will be intense and meaningful.

"From today, going forward, it's impossible to decide what spots are open or are not open," Playfair said.

"Our camp will be extremely competitive."

Still, barring a trade or injuries, the Flames roster appears set. What will shake out between now and the Oct. 5 regular season opener in Edmonton is who fits where.

Is Alex Tanguay better suited on the left wing or centre? Will he be on a line with Jarome Iginla or another unit to spread out scoring? Will it be Matthew Lombardi or Jamie Lundmark on the second line? Can Andrei Taratukhin unseat one or both of them and force a move? Where does Tony Amonte fit? Or Jeff Friesen? Darren McCarty? Who'll be the seventh defenceman?

With that in mind, here's a peek at what may happen beginning tomorrow:

COACHES:

Jim Playfair makes his NHL debut as bench boss, taking over from Darryl Sutter, who remains in the GM chair. Playfair has a good group of assistants: Rich Preston, Wayne Fleming, Rob Cookson and David Marcoux.

SAY GOODBYE:

LW Mike Leclerc (unsigned UFA), LW Chris Simon (N.Y. Islanders), RW Shean Donovan (Boston), D Jordan Leopold (Colorado), RW Craig MacDonald (Chicago), D Cale Hulse (Carolina), D Bryan Marchment (unsigned UFA), G Brian Boucher (unsigned UFA).

SAY HELLO:

G Jamie McLennan (Florida), D Andrei Zyuzin (Minnesota), D Brad Ference (Albany, AHL), LW Jeff Friesen (Anaheim), RW Eric Godard (N.Y. Islanders), LW Alex Tanguay (Colorado), LW Eric Nystrom (Omaha, AHL), C Andrei Taratukhin (Russia).

GOALTENDING:

Miikka Kiprusoff, with two seasons left on a three-year, $10-million US deal, appears to be the bargain of the league.

He proved his amazing 2003-04 run was no fluke with a league-best 2.07 average and .923 save percentage, while setting a franchise record with 10 shutouts. The finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP will be counted on to be just as good this season, with no reason to believe he can't deliver.

The incumbent to serve as backup is old friend Jamie McLennan. With a one-year contract, he'll be counted off to hold the job from Brent Krahn -- who is likely better served by another full season in the AHL playing 60 games -- and spell off Kiprusoff 15 or 20 times in the season.

For Krahn, this is his year to prove he's ready for the NHL. He'll likely go to Omaha but a strong camp will be a huge first step.

ON THE BLUELINE:

Dion Phaneuf is a rising star among a strong top-six group that includes cornerstone Robyn Regehr, the rugged Rhett Warrener, Roman Hamrlik, Andrei Zyuzin and Andrew Ference.

Of that cast, the spotlight will be brightest on Hamrlik, who must rebound from a disappointing, injury-plagued campaign (7G, 19A).

Jordan Leopold, dealt for Alex Tanguay, will be missed. His offensive output last season was below expectations but he played more than 22 minutes per game, meaning Phaneuf, Zyuzin and Ference will need to take up the slack.

The training camp battle will be for the next spot, and an NHL roster position. Brad Ference, the former Vancouver Canucks first-rounder who spent all of last season in the minors, would be the favourite thanks to his experience but it won't be handed to him.

He is on a two-way deal and both Mark Giordano and Richie Regehr have the ability to make solid cases for themselves to remain with the big club in a supporting role rather than playing 20-some minutes in the minors.

UP FRONT:

As it stands, the only spot open appears to be at 14th forward, if the Flames plan to carry that many.

Tanguay, the latest addition pegged to burst out with first-line opportunity in Calgary, joins a crew that includes Jarome Iginla, Daymond Lankow, Kristian Huselius, Matthew Lombardi, Chuck Kobasew, Jeff Friesen, Stephane Yelle, Tony Amonte, Marcus Nilson, Jamie Lundmark, Darren McCarty and Byron Ritchie. All those players are on one-way contracts.

A fantastic camp from a prospect could facilitate a trade.

Eric Nystrom and Brandon Prust have the potential to unseat a winger, while Andrei Taratukhin could do the same at centre.

Eric Godard, an enforcer, is on a two-way deal but his willingness to defend teammates, especially Iginla, may be worth a NHL job.

Another wildcard is Dustin Boyd, a first-year pro with great skating ability and scoring touch, though he's likely sixth on the chart among centres.


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