Tanguay likely on top line

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

It looks like Alex Tanguay is going to be back where he belongs tonight.

The top line.

The rumour of his days in Calgary being numbered before the trade deadline stemmed from his role as a support player rather than a star over the past couple of months.

Although Flames GM Darryl Sutter told a national TV telecast anyone naming his team's top two players would list Tanguay second behind only Jarome Iginla, the 28-year-old left-winger had been playing more on the penalty kill than the powerplay, and trying to set up Craig Conroy and Owen Nolan rather than the team's top sniper.

Doing his best to hide any unhappiness, Tanguay outwardly accepted his lesser role.

Whether or not he expressed dissatisfaction to his coaches and management is unknown, but his recent contributions and the fact fellow left-sider Kristian Huselius hasn't scored in 16 games appears to have influenced the bosses.

Practising yesterday for the first time since suffering a pinched nerve in his neck last weekend, he skated with Iginla and Daymond Langkow at Father David Bauer Arena before taking off for a two-game road trip in Anaheim and Phoenix.

Goals have been hard to come by lately for the Flames, and that could be the difference between wins and losses down the stretch.

"Mike has been changing things up. We've been really strong defensively lately," said Iginla. "Kipper's played outstanding. Our physical game's been there.

"As a group offensively, we need a little more production."

To get it, it only makes sense to return your second-best forward to the top line.

Tanguay makes $5.375 million a season and is locked up for another year. Huselius is a pending unrestricted free agent who could garner a bigger contract on the open market than what the Flames may offer.

The Swede had a big run after being teamed with Iginla throughout December and early January, but has been slumping for more than a month.

Meanwhile, Tanguay has looked strong recently, scoring three goals and adding an assist in three games before his injury took him out of a game against the Wild after less than three minutes of ice time.

"He was playing really well, maybe even his best of the year there where he carried us in Dallas and had a great game against Detroit," said Iginla. "I'm excited to play with Tangs again."

There's a chance Tanguay will be unable to suit up tonight -- in his own words, he's keeping his fingers crossed -- but head coach Mike Keenan said odds are on a reunion with Iginla.

"You never expect to be predictable," said Keenan. "But there's a likely chance he will be."

Tanguay said he was "still very stiff" after practice.

"I'm hoping it's just from not skating for a little bit. We'll see how it is in the morning. I'm hoping to play. That's the plan," said Tanguay.

"Now, it's crunch time.I'd like to be playing."

Joining Iginla again has to be an added incentive, although he wouldn't come out and say it.

"We switch back and forth during the game, so don't think we really focus on that," said Tanguay. "(Huselius is) a real good player. He's a very talented player. He's got tremendous upside on the offensive side of the puck.

"Right now, it doesn't really matter who you play with. You have to make sure that you help the team win. We're trying to find ways to win a little bit more consistently."

He doesn't believe he or Huselius consider it a competition, but admitted there may be a method to Keenan's line juggling.

"If it motivates us both a little bit more, I think that's good for the team."\


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