SUN Hockey Pool

Long Knights ahead

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

It had all the makings of a depressing morning.

A chilled drizzle fell as sticks and bags were loaded into vehicles. Five players leaving the Saddledome with no sure return date. But 'cut day' couldn't smack the smiles off the Calgary Flames' next generation.

Goaltender Brent Krahn, forwards Andrei Taratukhin, Dustin Boyd and Brandon Prust, and defenceman Richie Regehr all left for the American Hockey League's Omaha Knights yesterday.

Even as he prepared for a solo, 20-hour drive to Omaha, Krahn was in a positive mood. He had every right as the last netminder in training camp to be reassigned.

"I think I showed more confidence than I have in years past. I played more in control and I've really felt like I belong," said Krahn before throwing his equipment into his SUV outside the 'Dome. "It's just a nice feeling in the pre-season to go out there and battle hard in practice with the top players and to play games with the elite. It really gives you a good test of where you are.

"It's only pre-season -- there's still more steps to come -- but every step I feel like I've improved on and I'm just more and more confident in my game. Now more than ever."

Krahn heads to Nebraska with some valuable advice from the Flames.

Head coach Jim Playfair expects the 24-year-old to claim the Knights' starting role and left Krahn with an important message.

"Prepare to win," said Krahn. "Go down to Omaha and earn every minute of ice time I get and make sure it counts."

Another Flames prospect who will get plenty of opportunity in Omaha is Russian Andrei Taratukhin.

Many wondered whether the 23-year-old middle man would stick for opening day after leaving his Russian club and family behind to take a shot at his dream of playing in the world's top league.

But Taratukhin has no regrets and was chipper as ever as he prepared to catch a flight out of town.

"(I feel) fine," said Taratukhin through trusted translator Andrei Zyuzin. "I'll get a lot of playing time there. I have to go get used to it, the American League hockey, work hard and pretty soon I'll come back."

Buoyed by the thought of being joined in Nebraska by his wife and children, Taratukhin is looking forward to working with the Knights staff, his goal of returning to Calgary in mind.

"I'll adjust to the game, I'll learn things there, focus on what the team is asking me to do on the ice," he said.

"I think it's a good coaching staff. They're patient with the guys and will correct me what I have to do better to get back in the NHL."

Playfair believes the language barrier won't cause problems despite the fact Taratukhin will be forced to communicate on his own.

"His English is very good," said Playfair. "He understands what's going on. I think he'll do fine. I know our coaches down there will do a really good job with him. He's going to develop both on and off the ice."

Boyd, who is as happy about living on his own and cooking for himself as he is about the start of his first pro season, also has eyes on a return to Calgary.

"Soon as possible," said Boyd after taking a last look at the Saddledome ice.

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PLAYFAIR EXPLAINS HIS CUTS

Flames coach Jim Playfair tells you why he decided to send the kids down to the farm:

- G Brent Krahn -- "Has to continue to develop -- develop into the No. 1 goaltender in Omaha and be ready to come back and play."

- D Richie Regehr -- "His attention to details is really important to playing defence."

- W Brandon Prust -- "He's a high-energy guy. He has to push up his pace of play."

- C Dustin Boyd -- "Making sure he gets really strong with his puck play, strong in his defensive zone and continues to develop his game."

- C Andrei Taratukhin -- "It was a very valuable month for Andrei ... to understand what our expectations are, what preparation and work is required to play in the NHL."

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UPDATED DEPTH CHART

FORWARDS

Left Wing Centre Right Wing

40 Alex Tanguay 18 Matthew Lombardi 12 Jarome Iginla

20 Kristian Huselius 22 Daymond Langkow 19 Chuck Kobasew

16 Jeff Friesen 24 Jamie Lundmark 10 Tony Amonte

26 Marcus Nilson 11 Stephane Yelle 25 Darren McCarty

23 Eric Nystrom* 15 Byron Ritchie 17 Eric Godard

DEFENCEMEN

28 Robyn Regehr 3 Dion Phaneuf

4 Roman Hamrlik 7 Andrei Zyuzin

21 Andrew Ference 44 Rhett Warrener*

8 Brad Ference 46 Mark Giordano

GOALTENDERS

34 Miikka Kiprusoff 29 Jamie McLennan

* currently injured


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