Flames keep pushing Backlund to prove himself

Back in July, we wrote about Mikael Backlund’s opportunity to step up and prove the Flames were right to draft him 24th overall in 2007.

With six goals and five assists in 24 games this season, we’re not sure the 24-year-old center has made the most of his opportunity; however, it doesn’t sound like the organization is ready to give up on him quite yet.

“I want to help him realize what he needs to keep doing,” coach Bob Hartley said, per the Calgary Herald. “He’s tougher in puck battles. He’s going harder at the net. I want him to play as a centerman. You need to be able to play the game in the three zones. He’s a great skater. He’s got great vision. I want to help him expand his role and believe in himself.”

Given the dearth of centers in the NHL, high draft picks that play the middle will usually get multiple chances to prove themselves. And based on what Hartley said, the still-young Swede is improving.

Backlund is a pending restricted free agent that’s finishing out a one-year, $725,000 contract.

“Obviously, the better I play, the better contract I’ll get — that’s how it works,” said Backlund. “So I’m trying to do my best and show them that I want to be a part of this team, I want to be part of the future of this organization.

“Hopefully, I’d like to stay here.”

Video: Eichel’s first career NHL goal

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Didn’t take long for Jack Eichel to make his mark at the NHL level.

The No. 2 overall pick at this year’s draft scored his first-ever NHL goal in his first-ever NHL game on Thursday night, cutting Ottawa’s lead to 2-1 in the third period of Buffalo’s season-opener.

Marcus Foligno and another new Sabre, Evander Kane, registered the assists on Eichel’s marker, which came on the power play.


Tough start: Lehner knocked out of Sabres debut, won’t return

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner
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Chances are Robin Lehner won’t look back fondly on his first game as a Sabre.

Midway through Buffalo’s season-opener against Ottawa, Lehner — facing his old team for the first time since getting traded this summer — suffered a lower-body injury, and was forced from the contest.

During the second intermission, the Sabres ruled out Lehner for the night.

It was a difficult turn of events for 24-year-old, who admitted he was keen to go up against the Sens. He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his time in the Canadian capital; Lehner felt he never got a full opportunity to run with the No. 1 gig, and probably wasn’t thrilled GM Bryan Murray opted to keep Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond instead of him.

As for tonight’s injury, details are scarce. All that’s known is the ailment was serious enough for Lehner to leave and not return, forcing backup Chad Johnson into duty.

Prior to getting hurt, Lehner had stopped 11 of 12 shots faced.