SUN Hockey Pool

Showtime for Boyd

ADAM WAZNY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

The last time Dustin Boyd saw an NHL game in his hometown was back in 1996, when the Winnipeg Jets lost Game 6 to the Detroit Red Wings.

He was 10-years-old.

Sure, there have been games in this town since then, pre-season showcases that mean little to the city and to the most of players in them. That's what Boyd, who's shooting for a spot on the Calgary Flames, was thinking about heading into Calgary's 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in NHL exhibition action before pro-Cowtown crowd of 12,621 at MTS Centre last night.

He's played here as a junior player and as an American Leaguer, but not while wearing a bona-fide NHL jersey and with a large contingent of friends and family cheering him on.

"I've been looking forward to this one all summer," said Boyd, who picked up two assists last night, giving him four points in two pre-season games.

Boyd is in that precarious 'year-three' middle ground in terms of his career as a pro. He did manage to stick up with the Flames for half the season a year ago (scoring seven goals and 12 points in 48 games) but this time around, both the player and the club are looking for a full-time contribution.

"For me it's just a matter of going out there and showing (the coaches) that I can make an impact at this level," the 22-year-old said. "I want an increased role this year, so I have to make sure I'm on top of my game every night."

Down 2-0, Dion Phaneuf and Matt Pelech tied things up for the Flames and Daymond Langkow gave the Canadian club the win with a tap-in early in the third, as Calgary's deeper NHL line-up controlled the play as the game went on.

Phoenix winger Enver Lisin had both goals for the Coyotes, both coming in the first period. Calgary out-shot Phoenix 41-24.

LOOKING BACK: Phoenix head coach Wayne Gretzky was asked to recall his time as a player, when he would skate through Winnipeg in a Smythe Division match-up AND help his Edmonton Oilers pick up two points without really breaking a sweat.

"I said this many times, that the teams were extremely evenly matched, (former Jets GM) John Ferguson always did a great job of putting a great team here -- unfortunately they were in the same division as Calgary and Edmonton, who were pretty good at the time," Gretzky said. "Winnipeg in the playoffs ... I always felt the biggest difference was that our goaltender was (Grant Fuhr)."

That was then. This is now.

Gretzky turned serious when discussing his club heading into the winter. With youth all around him and the franchise in financial disarray, he doesn't mince words when asked how critical it is for his Coyotes to make the post-season this year.

Many view it as a make-or-break year for Gretzky as a coach and for the franchise to continue to operate in the desert.

"A year ago, when we were here we didn't really know what to expect from our franchise," he said. "We were rebuilding, but now we've felt that we made tremendous leaps and we would be disappointed if we didn't make the playoffs.

"The good news is we like our group. The bad news is we're in a tough conference."


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