Swede option for Flames

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

The next time Mikael Backlund plays at the Saddledome, it could be with the Kelowna Rockets.

Backlund, who the Calgary Flames selected 24th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has his junior rights owned by the WHL's Rockets and could end up finishing the season with them.

But there is still a chance the Flames could send him to their farm club in Quad City.

Backlund, who was part of the Swedish squad that lost to Canada 5-1 at the world Juniors Monday night in Ottawa, attended the game last night against the San Jose Sharks.

"I'm not sure where I will play," Backlund said.

"It's up to (Flames GM) Darryl Sutter to decide where I will play. We haven't made that decision yet.

"This is a big opportunity for me. I'm excited to go out and play hockey almost every day."

The Rockets visit the Saddledome to play the Calgary Hitmen Feb. 28. The issue right now is the Rockets have two imports on their roster and need to move one in order to add Backlund.

"If I play in North America, Darryl said it's that much closer for me to being with the Flames," Backlund said.

"It's important for me playing every day and being on the powerplay.

"The biggest thing for me to adjust to is rink size. There are more hits here (compared to playing in Europe). I have to learn to play well every game, as well."

The Flames were well represented at the world juniors, with 2007 fourth-round draft pick Keith Aulie manning the blueline for Canada.

With both Backlund and Aulie getting the experience of playing in a pressure-packed world junior final, it can only help in the future for the Flames.

Captain Jarome Iginla, who won gold in the 1996 world juniors, said that experience prepares players for the next level.

"You feel the pressure and intensity, but that's a good thing," Iginla said. "Hockey Canada helps you deal with all those experiences. It's good to have the Canadian fans watching and playing in Canada. If you can win under those circumstances, it's great for development."

PALIN AN AHL ALL-STAR

Defenceman Brett Palin was chosen to represent Quad City at the AHL all-star game.


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