Wild and wacky day for Flames prospects

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- Tuesday night, John Negrin was dejected and disappointed.

The defenceman had just seen his WHL career come to a close with the Swift Current Broncos' seventh-game loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Funny how quickly emotions can change.

Yesterday, Negrin awoke early to catch a flight to St. Paul, Minn., to play his first NHL game, along with fellow defenceman Matt Pelech.

"Oh my goodness, yeah, when we got knocked out, it was tough. We had a good team," said Negrin. "I felt we could have gone further.

"Getting the call to go to Quad City was awesome, but then getting called up here is really big."

The promotions were part of a wacky day of transactions for the Flames. Both Robyn Regehr and Adrian Aucoin suffered injuries in Thursday night's 2-1 win in Dallas -- Regehr's "lower-body" and Aucoin's "upper-body" -- so the team needed to recall a pair of blueliners.

However, being so close to the salary cap, the Flames had to demote forwards Dustin Boyd and Warren Peters to make room for them.

Which meant the Flames had only 16 skaters dressed for last night's loss to the Minnesota Wild. Teams dress 18 skaters along with two goalies.

"It's an opportunity for a lot of our forwards in particular to play many minutes, and we'll have to manage ice time properly," coach Mike Keenan said at the morning skate.

How long Regehr and Aucoin will be out of action isn't known, but the Flames are also without defencemen Cory Sarich, Mark Giordano and Rhett Warrener. Plus, forwards Andre Roy, Rene Bourque and Wayne Primeau are also on the shelf.

Keenan said he planned to use defencemen Jim Vandermeer and Adam Pardy at forward for a few shifts if needed.

Earlier this season, the Detroit Red Wings had to play a game one skater short.

"That's the new CBA we're dealing with, and part of that salary cap equation," Keenan said. "It might be something the owners will reflect on now and look at in the future, in terms of future negotiations. But for the time being, we're well aware of our situation and we'll deal with it."

When the puck dropped, Calgary's six defencemen consisted of three rookies -- Pardy being the other -- and three with just over 300 regular-season games of NHL experience.

Only Jordan Leopold (28) and Vandermeer (29) are older than 24 years of age.

Keenan's 1984-85 Philadelphia Flyers team was young, but this might be the youngest blueline brigade he's coached at the NHL level.

"Might be?" he said. "Actually, the older players on my youngest team were the defencemen. Three of the core of four were 26 and one was 29."

Which meant anticipating the forward crew would pay closer attention to defensive details, while the young blueliners would elevate their game thanks to the excitement of playing in the NHL.

"I'm sure they'll be pumped full of adrenaline," Keenan said. "They're very capable. I was joking with Adam Pardy, 'You came as a rookie and now you're a veteran.' Things happen in a hurry."

For Negrin, they sure did. The third-round draft choice from 2007 made his way to Quad City yesterday and just settled into his hotel when the phone rang.

"I was probably there for about 10 hours," he said. "I'm just trying to stay in the moment."

Meanwhile, Pelech is making his debut nearly four years after being chosen 26th overall in the 2005 draft. It's been a slow and deliberate climb to the bigs, but he's not disappointed about the pace.

"I've learned a lot of things and still need to learn a lot more before I can become a regular here. I'm not frustrated at all," he said. "I'm playing hockey, right? In Quad City, I'm learning, getting a lot of minutes, so it's hard to complain."


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