Flames bolster blueline

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Battling a nasty injury bug that has an entire city wondering what their team will do today, the Calgary Flames added hometown product Lawrence Nycholat off waivers on the eve before the NHL trade deadline.

Doesn't sound like much, does it?

With the team's veterans hurting at crunch time and the playoffs little more than a month away, the 29-year-old journeyman defenceman might have more to offer than his total of nine points in 45 career NHL games would indicate.

Nycholat was part of the Bruce Boudreau-led Hershey Bears team that won the AHL's Calder Cup in 2006.

"I don't have any NHL playoff experience, but the experience I had with the Hershey Bears, winning a Calder Cup, it was great," said Nycholat, who was born in Calgary and called this city home until his early 20s.

"Anytime you're in the playoffs and you go to the end, it's quite a grind -- it's tough on your body and it's tough on you mentally -- but you learn things that you carry over and hopefully it reflects when you get the chance to do it again."

He's hoping to get that chance with the Flames.

Boudreau used that championship as a stepping stone to the head coaching job with the Washington Capitals.

The Bears' second-leading scorer that season, Nycholat continued to skip through the minors and cameo appearances in the NHL before being picked up by the Flames on waivers from the Vancouver Canucks yesterday.

Before leaving Hershey, though, Nycholat was named team captain by Boudreau for the 2006-07 season.

That tells you a little about his character.

"We talked about it a little bit when I got there. He thought I was the right guy to be captain for the team that year," said Nycholat. "I took it as a great honour coming from such a great guy and as great a coach as Bruce.

"Being able to be captain, even though I was only there for half a season, was an honour."

Nycholat was traded to the Ottawa Senators halfway through the season, then to the Canucks organization before this campaign began.

With his contract expiring at the end of the year, he's not sure what's next in his hockey career, but hopes to make an impression as a Flame.

"You need to have some luck, and you need to come across the right situation at the right time to stick in the NHL," said Nycholat.

"For myself, I am turning 30. It's always been important to me, whether in the American League or the NHL, to keep working on my game and try to improve. Hopefully, you get another chance. Maybe that will be the chance to stick."

GM Darryl Sutter has brought in other players who made the best of their opportunities. One is blueliner Mark Giordano, whose shoulder injury made a move necessary for Sutter, who considers Nycholat a similar fit.

Excited to come to Calgary instead of making a trip to the minor-league Manitoba Moose, Nycholat knows there are no guarantees for his future beyond joining the Flames on their lengthy road trip.

He's OK with that. And he's used to hitting the road during a nine-year pro career that has taken him through four leagues and 13 cities.

"At times, it can be (tough)," said Nycholat, who takes nothing for granted.

"It's the profession that I've chosen and I feel real lucky to be able to call this my job. It's one of the things that goes along with it. You know that going in.

"I feel lucky I'm able to do it."


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