CALGARY - Michael Cammalleri was going to be the story.
With the Calgary Flames about to play host to the Montreal Canadiens, the team Cammalleri was acquired from in the trade which sent Rene Bourque to Le Belle Province, Cammalleri was unquestionably going to be the centre of attention heading into Tuesday’s match (7 p.m., MT Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960).
Instead, the Flames forward is now the latest member of the club’s injured brigade after suffering an undisclosed ‘upper-body’ injury in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars.
“It’s going to be a big loss for our team, because he’s an important guy, like many other guys are. But he’s not going to be there, so there’s not much we can do,” said Flames winger Alex Tanguay.
Flames head coach Brent Sutter wouldn’t divulge when or how Cammalleri was injured and said it had nothing to do with being hit in the throat by a puck shot by teammate Olli Jokinen in the dying seconds of Friday’s game in Anaheim.
Reports say he might have taken an elbow from the Stars’ Sheldon Souray. In that same game Sunday, Cammalleri also got hit with a third-period open-ice hit by Stars pest Steve Ott.
Either way, it’s another hit to a Flames team which may want to start going to church and praying or turning to voodoo in the hopes something could stop the never-ending injury waves.
Forward Lance Bouma was also injured in the Stars tilt, a game in which the Flames played with just 11 forwards because Blake Comeau went down the game before.
In turn, the club summoned an entire forward line from the AHL Abbotsford Heat Monday — 2008 first-round draft choice Greg Nemisz, Guillaume Desbiens and Krys Kolanos — in time to face the Canadiens .
“I decided I wanted to bring up one full line and have three guys that can come in and play together and are used to playing with each other,” Sutter said. “Those three guys coming in are going to have to respond the right way — bring us what they can, and the other nine forwards have to play at the level they need to be at, too. Attitudes are very important right now, and making sure we’re fully engaged, each individual, for our team to have success. Whoever’s in our lineup, it’s not like we’re going through this for the first time. It’s been going on for two months. It’s getting guys opportunity, and they have to respond to it.”
After a while, though, the frustration has to be overwhelming. We’re talking about a Flames team which will surpass 300 man-games lost to injury when they face the Canadiens.
“I’m sure if I had to name them all to you, I’d forget a couple because we’ve got so many,” Tanguay said of the number of players injured. “But it’s part of this season. It’s adversity — if we get through, it will make us stronger.”
The Flames are also without forwards Mikael Backlund, Blair Jones and Lee Stempniak and blueliner Chris Butler.
Cammalleri has collected five goals and 11 points in 21 games since the Jan. 12 swap.
Now, Sutter will have to rely even more on his top players, so watch for the likes of Jarome Iginla, Jokinen, Curtis Glencross and Tanguay to see even more icetime than usual to keep his team’s flickering playoff hopes alive.
“We don’t have a choice,” Sutter said. “Ask them — they love playing 25 minutes a night. It’s no different with our starting goalie. You’ve got to manage it between games, and you’ve got to have a feel as a coach where these guys are at in the game.”
And, in turn, the team hopes the newcomers can do the job handed to them.
“The people coming back aren’t that new, because we’ve seen them before,” said Flames d-man Cory Sarich. “We’ve had lots of excitement in that department this year, and lots of extra numbers, but the guys that have come in have done a good job. It’s just trying to manage with what we’ve got.
“We’ve been dealing with this since Christmas, even before that. You have to revert to what you know, and that’s stick to our system. Hard work overcomes a lot when you have injuries.”
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak