SUN Hockey Pool

Final stage for bubble boys

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

For three days, Brandon Prust was essentially bedridden.

Knocked down by the flu virus that's ripped its way through the Calgary Flames dressing room, he was allowed minimal contact with his teammates.

Not that he felt up to being one of the boys anyway.

Even worse, though, was the impact the illness had on his training camp.

If you can't play, you can't show the coaches what you can do, something that will indeed make an athlete feel sick.

Prust is on the cusp of being an NHL regular, so missing games and missing practices isn't the route he wanted to take through the final portion of training camp and the pre-season.

"It's upsetting, but hopefully I can get in (tonight) and get a good game under me," Prust said. "I'm ready to play, had a few days feeling a lot better and skated two days in row. Hopefully, I'll get in."

Tonight's clash at the Saddledome against the Edmonton Oilers is the final tilt on the pre-season docket.

It's also the last chance before the final roster decisions are made and the Flames prepare for Thursday's season opener in Vancouver.

Therefore, it's the last chance for those on the bubble to earn a spot here or state their case to be a call-up from the minors when injuries or the like take their toll on the big club.

Prust was a strong contender to make the club a year ago, but a hip ailment that required late-summer surgery kiboshed that opportunity.

Having a one-way contract, the third-round pick from 2004 with 10 NHL contests under his belt stands an even better chance this year. But he hasn't been heard from after skating in the first two pre-season contests.

Therefore, he's really hoping to make up for lost time tonight in a Battle of Alberta.

"You want to be out there and in every exhibition game, showing your stuff. I definitely haven't made this team and have a lot to prove. I want to fight for a spot in the lineup every night," he said.

"Hopefully I'll get in, have a good game and make the best of my opportunities."

Prust isn't the only player still around and hoping for one more shot tonight against the Oilers.

Mikael Backlund is likely ticketed back to Sweden and could use a positive finish on his camp, while fellow forward Jamie Lundmark is trying to state his case as a first call-up player from the minors.

The blueline brigade is a bigger mess.

Currently, nine defencemen remain in camp -- eight on one-way contracts including veterans Rhett Warrener and Anders Eriksson, who are candidates for salary cutting moves that must be made. The lone player on a two-way deal is Adam Pardy, who has the potential to be the seventh defenceman if both Warrener and Eriksson are moved.

Pardy, who's made great strides in the Flames organization over the last year-and-a-half, knows it will take some interesting manoeuvring for him to be in Calgary for the season opener, but it is a very real possibility.

"Yeah, but that's out of my control," said the 24-year-old sixth-round pick from the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. "I can't do anything about it -- only keep playing the way I can, push for a job and steal a job."

You bet he wants to play and play well tonight.

"You recognize it is the last game and probably your last chance to make an impression and show what I'm capable of, what game I bring and what identity I have if I want to stick here," Pardy said. "I think my camp has gone pretty well. Obviously, I have good days and bad days, and I'm still learning. It's a process for me, and I'll keep learning as the year goes on, here in the NHL or in the AHL."


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