SUN Hockey Pool

Slew of injuries exposes Sutter's salary-cap gamble

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:20 PM ET

ST. PAUL -- Flames GM Darryl Sutter says he knew the team was rolling the dice by adding so much salary at the NHL trade deadline.

It finally came up snake eyes.

Due to a run of injuries and being bumped up against the salary cap, the Flames had to play last night's game against the Minnesota Wild with only 16 skaters, as opposed to the 18 teams are allowed to dress.

Sutter last night said the team understood that scenario was a possibility when they added Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold. Well aware Todd Bertuzzi would be back from knee surgery around this point, the moves left just enough money under the cap for one AHL call-up.

Who could have guessed defencemen Cory Sarich, Robyn Regehr and Adrian Aucoin would all suffer injuries over two games?

"We lost $12 million on defence in two games. It's not hard to do the math," Sutter said. "I played in the league when it was 17 and two (skaters to goalies), and it should be 17 and two.

"To be honest, I'm not totally comfortable with 16, but 17 would be fine. I'd just prefer to have six defencemen."

The Flames summoned defencemen John Negrin and Matt Pelech from the minors to fill the void on the blueline, but had to demote forwards Warren Peters and Dustin Boyd for cap reasons.

Still, prior to last night's game, Sutter was happy about his team clinching a playoff berth despite a rash of injuries that's seen them also go without forwards Rene Bourque the last six weeks, Andre Roy the last couple of weeks and Wayne Primeau since early December.

Defenceman Mark Giordano has been out since mid-February and fellow blueliner Rhett Warrener hasn't played all season.

"Our team, amidst it all, has done a hell of a job," Sutter said. "Everybody that comes to Calgary, everybody talks about their injuries, but we're third or fourth in the league and managed to stay right there. Most teams either drop out or are out, and we've managed to stay right there.

"We managed to make the playoffs with five games left with the whole second line out and now have two or three defencemen out. I'm proud of their accomplishment.

Funny, but the team was rather nonchalant about clinching a playoff spot in Dallas after Thursday's 2-1 victory cinched the deal.

"Nobody talked about it," Sutter said. "To do that again, quietly, is pretty good for the group. Post-lockout, you don't take it for granted. It's not easy to do. If it was, why don't the same teams always do it?

"And with what we had to go through this year, and still have a shot at winning the division is good -- still have a shot of getting home-ice."

Which means they can find a silver lining amidst the injuries -- the opportunity to insert some prospects.

"Injuries aren't good, it doesn't matter," Sutter said.

"The reason Vancouver is tied with us is because they got healthy. Since we started losing guys, we're one game over .500. You don't win with smoke and mirrors in this league, you win with good players and being injury-free. That's one thing you can't predict before the season.

"But we clinched the playoff spot, so I want to look at these young guys to see if they can help us."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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