Backlund to make most of his NHL time

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:20 PM ET

CALGARY — Mikael Backlund may be young, but he can count and the Flames rookie has noticed how many veteran forwards have been added to the roster lately.

Still, the rookie forward is trying not to let the numbers game affect his play while he stays with the Flames — however long it is.

“I try to not think too much about all that’s going on. I just go on the ice and do my best,” Backlund said. “I know there’s a lot of stuff going on, but it’s nothing I should focus on.

There’s been lots of thoughts going through my head with all the forwards here, but I’m going to do my best and stay as long as I can.”

The club’s first-round pick from 2007 was called up from the minors just over a week ago, a necessity since his arrival gave the team 12 healthy forwards.

However, five forwards were added and only three sent the other way in the two big trades completed by GM Darryl Sutter since Backlund’s promotion.

Now, the Flames are carrying two healthy forwards — Jamie Lundmark and Brian McGrattan were scratched for Wednesday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes — plus have an injured trio in David Moss, Nigel Dawes and Craig Conroy, who are all expected to be on the shelf through the Olympic break.

After the March 3 trade-deadline, teams can carry more players than the usual 23-man roster — provided the club doesn’t go beyond the salary cap — so Backlund could remain even if everyone is healthy, but the possibility will exist of a return to the AHL Abbotsford Heat.

While he discussed the turnover this week, Sutter pointed out the team essentially has seven new faces, adding Backlund to the six acquired by trade. That inclusion bodes well for his chances to remain with the team.

So does the fact Backlund was skating on a line with Rene Bourque and Dustin Boyd.

“It’s a good feeling being in the lineup and being on a line,” he said. “Last practice, I was on the fifth line (and then was scratched for Monday’s game against Philadelphia), but being on a line with Bourqueie and Boyd means a lot. I want to be in the NHL and play a lot. This is my dream and hopefully I can stay a long time.”

With a few NHL contests under his belt, and a bit of a breather after playing three games in four nights and collecting a goal and an assist, Backlund has been able to think about the lessons learned during this stint.

Obviously, he has to improve his defensive play and remain confident enough to be creative.

But there remains an underlying quest.

“Work hard every night, that’s the biggest thing, because it’s a higher pace in the NHL compared to the AHL, he said. “You can’t let down, work hard every time, and that’s what I’m going to do because I want to stay here as long as I can.”


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