Backlund's promotion a family affair

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Mikael Backlund's family visitors only saw him play one game.

Still, it was magical.

"It was good. They were more happy to see me play here than in Abbotsford, and they had a good time," the Flames forward said.

"I was so excited to have them here, too. It was a special moment for me to play with them in the crowd."

Backlund's paternal grandparents, Olov and Greta, along with his father, Jan, and his dad's girlfriend came over from Sweden for a 10-day visit, but he laced up for only one game they could watch in person.

That's because when they originally planned the trip two months ago, it was done with the thought he'd be with the AHL's Abbotsford Heat, who had four home games scheduled during that spell.

Instead, they arrived in Calgary in time to see Backlund and the Flames beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 Feb. 3 but jet off the next day to face the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators on the road.

"I didn't know I was going to be up here," Backlund said. "They saw the one game, but I took off the day after and was gone a week, and then they left (Wednesday).

"My dad said before he came, 'It's 100% you'll be in the NHL when we get there,' and he was right."

They considered flying to Florida to see those two games but opted to remain in Calgary at Staffan Kronwall's apartment, instead.

"I tried to get them to go to Florida, but my grandparents are in their 70s, so it's kinda hard for them to travel so much," Backlund said. "My dad wanted to go, but it would have been a lot of money, and he would have had to leave my grandparents here alone.

"It's OK. They were really excited to see me play. My grandpop has been huge for me. He's always been there for me, watching my games. When my dad couldn't make games, he'd drive me, so it was really good for him to come over and see me.

"And my grandmother said it was the best trip ever."

Backlund's mother, Ann-Mari, is hoping to visit in March, although that decision will be predicated on whether the rookie is with the Flames.

He'd like that, but with a couple of injured players nearing a return and the NHL shutting down for a couple of weeks while its stars are at the Olympics, Backlund can't be sure where he'll be.

It's likely the first-year pro, who has collected one goal and two points in eight NHL contests, will be returned to the minors, possibly as early as today if both Nigel Dawes and David Moss are healthy enough to play.

The Heat are in a dogfight to make the playoffs, and have a slew of games between now and the end of the month.

For his part, Backlund has no idea what will happen to him during the NHL break.

"No. I have no clue. Just one day at a time. If I get sent down, it'll be good to play a lot of games. If not, I'll get a rest. It's my first season with 80-82 games. A rest would be good or get to keep going."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA

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WHO TO WATCH

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THESE TWO PLAYERS IN TONIGHT'S GAME

BOBBY RYAN, LEFT-WING

In his second full season, the winger chosen second behind Sidney Crosby in the 2005 draft is currently the leader for goals scored by American-born players. He has a team-high 27 tallies and is coming off his fifth two-goal game of the season.

JAROME IGINLA, RIGHT-WING

Iginla scored the team's lone goal against Dallas two nights ago. He also registered seven shots on goal, had a couple blocked and missed the net once. If the club's captain plays every game with that fervour, nobody would be questioning his leadership.


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