SUN Hockey Pool

Enforcer eager to start chuckin' knuckles

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

The fact Craig Conroy dropped the gloves on the weekend doesn't have Flames resident tough guy Brian McGrattan racing back in the lineup.

"I could probably learn a thing or two from him," the Calgary Flames enforcer said after yesterday's morning skate. "He was chucking them pretty good."

As well as Conroy did against Edmonton's Sam Gagner, the Flames won't be banking on their veteran centre to police the beat.

They may very soon have McGrattan back to serve that role.

Today, McGrattan expects to arrive at the Saddledome having received the "all-clear" from the doctors for his surgically repaired shoulder.

The 6-foot-4, 235-lb. right winger is getting antsy to join his teammates in game action, having missed out on the pre-season as well as the first few regular-season contests.

"I'm a caged animal ready to go out there," he said after partaking in another hard skate. "I'm dying. It's especially when it's a matter of a week or 10 days or so. It's been long. I'm itching to play and get in.

"Hopefully, when I'm ready to play, the team will insert me into the lineup."

That could be as early as tomorrow night's clash in Edmonton.

McGrattan would provide some muscle against Edmonton's crew, which includes Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre.

"I was in the Battle of Ontario with Ottawa there, and they were pretty intense games," said McGrattan, who has 309 penalty minutes in 148 games on his NHL resume. "This has a bit more history and a bit more spark. If that was my first game, I'd be really excited."

It's been a slow process getting into action for the 28-year-old enforcer, who was signed as a free agent this summer.

He was hoping to play in pre-season games, but was forced to wear a yellow caution jersey in practices right up until the final exhibition game.

He's been skating with his teammmates and taking contact, but hasn't been allowed to dress for games so far.

He was to meet with team doctors during last night's contest against the Habs.

Being new to the Flames, and after a year reduced to a handful of games due to time spent in the league's behavioural and substance abuse program because of a battle with alcohol, McGrattan fears his time out of sight makes him a forgotten man with his teammates.

"I want to show them a good tilt," McGrattan said. "They haven't had a real heavyweight here for a long time. I have to show them something new."

For their part, his teammates know all too well what McGrattan provides.

Conroy -- not surprisingly -- turned down a scrap with McGrattan in the 2008 pre-season. They were staring at each other during a dust-up in the game between Calgary and the Phoenix Coyotes in Winnipeg. Conroy wasn't willing.

"He's the first fighter I've ever seen who can't wait to fight," Conroy said. "Usually, it's a guy who says, 'It's my job.' This guy, it's, 'I can't wait to fight.' "

Which everyone is well aware of now.

"He's done it for a lot of years. We know what he can do," said Eric Nystrom. "A guy like him, he's a deterrent. There are guys out there who go after top guys, and a guy like him is like a repellant."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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