A couple of days ago, Brendan Morrison was without a job and wading though his options — most of which came with question marks.
When he took to the ice for the first time with the Calgary Flames Tuesday morning at Westside Recreation Centre, it was with a strong opportunity — on the second line with 20-goal scorers Rene Bourque and Niklas Hagman on the wings.
“Both guys who can finish,” said Morrison, who signed a one-year, US$725,000 deal Monday afternoon. “I enjoy playing with guys who can shoot the puck. I can finish, as well, but I have a tendency to pass first, and it’s nice to play with guys who can score.”
The Flames open the season Thursday against the host Edmonton Oilers and will do so without a cast of forwards. Centres Daymond Langkow (neck), Matt Stajan (shoulder) and Ryan Stone (knee) are on the shelf, along with wingers Ales Kotalik (knee) and David Moss (shoulder).
Stajan’s injury necessitated Morrison’s signing but also pushed rookie Mikael Backlund onto the third line with Curtis Glencross and Tim Jackman.
“He’s still a young guy,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “How many NHL games has he played? It’s under 25 — I know that. Let’s allow these young kids to grow. He’s gonna get his share of ice time in different situations. There will be times he’s in the top-six positions.
“We can allow his development to be where he should be at this point in time.”
Backlund had been in a plum role most of the pre-season, mainly on the second line. He even spent a game on the top unit with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.
“Being a second-line player, I’m allowed to be there and would have been more pressure on myself,” Backlund said. “With (Morrison) here, it’s more pressure on him.”
Speaking of pressure, Morrison’s addition has veteran Craig Conroy feeling some heat.
Conroy, who needs nine games to reach 1,000 for his career, is on the bubble even more — and especially when the injured players start to return.
He’s admittedly had all kinds of thoughts swirling in his head.
“You’re thinking about all that stuff,” Conroy said. “But if you do too much, it’ll drive you crazy. I think too much any way, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out. At this point, it’s a waiting game. All you can do is come, have some fun and try to do your best.
“As long as they don’t tell you anything bad, it’s good.”