SUN Hockey Pool

Whose line is it anyway?

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Some teams believe in energy lines.

Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan seems to look for individual energy when tapping guys on the back on his bench and piecing together his trios in the heat of battle.

"Yeah, we don't really have lines, huh?" said Michael Cammalleri, who made the most of his 12:41 with a goal and an assist Tuesday night as Keenan rolled out combination after combination.

So as much as the die-hard poolies want to know who's going to be playing with whom on any given night, they better get used to the Flames' answer.

It could be anyone.

"There are all kinds of variables," said Keenan. "A lot of it is instincts and experience and going with players you feel are more on top of their game on a given night."

Seems to be working lately.

While breaking up the top trio would be considered blasphemy in the nation's capital --where Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson are all the Ottawa Senators seem to have when it comes to scoring goals -- it's nothing new in Calgary.

General manager Darryl Sutter did the same when he was behind the bench. Keenan has done it throughout his coaching career.

Pundits say you can tell a team is on track when it's rolling four lines. It was more like eight or nine lines for the Flames, who have to be familiar with each of their teammates' tendencies.

"Whoever he wants to put out, he puts out and away we go," Craig Conroy said of Keenan's tactics.

"Sometimes, it gets a little confusing because different guys like to do different things, so you're trying to get a little rhythm, but you understand why he's doing it. If he feels a guy is going good, he puts him right out there."

Case in point: Rene Bourque and Dustin Boyd, who both saw plenty of time with the rest of the top six or seven forwards against the Avs.

Starting on the top line with Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy, Bourque ended up doing most of his damage with Cammalleri on the other wing and Boyd, then Daymond Langkow, in between.

"We have a lot of guys on this team who can play on the top two lines," said Bourque, who hustled to beat out an icing call and set up Cammalleri for the third goal after charging out from a corner and tucking one of his own between goaltender Peter Budaj's pad and the post in the 3-0 win.

"I think when guys are skating well, battling hard along the boards, getting the puck deep and using their speed, I think Mike likes that and tends to play those guys more."

Bourque is used to it from his time in Chicago, where he said he'd play on a different line every other night.

Others are having to adapt.

But nobody is complaining. It's hard to fault the strategy during a four-game winning streak. And the team truly feels there's enough talent to go around.

"Every line, every guy you play with here is fun to play with. Everybody brings a little something different," said Conroy, who makes no bones about loving to play alongside Iginla. He's had that opportunity for a couple of games -- at least initially -- despite being brought back as a third-line centre.

With a point in each of the last four wins, Conroy is excited about the team's improvement and his own turn in fortune.

"It's been nice to get on the scoresheet. I was a quick minus-5, so it's nice to be out of the negatives."

With so many new players on the roster this season, the mixing might be the best way to create chemistry.

Cammalleri admits he takes note of who is hitting the ice beside him and tries to adjust his game accordingly.

"Just little things. Guys have certain tendencies," said Cammalleri.

"I'm out there with Bourque, I don't have a problem getting it in his corner and getting it deep, because I know he's going to get in there and get it. I'm out there with Ig and I know he wants that puck coming over the blueline."


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