CALGARY – For an offensive defenceman already pegged as the club’s future power play quarterback, you couldn’t have written a better script than having him score in his pre-season debut.
Problem is, the script got flipped on Jeremie Poirier.
Half an hour after being credited with a goal in his first outing as a Flame this fall, the 21-year-old defender learned by way of a PA announcement that Elias Lindholm had indeed tipped the point shot that put the Flames up 1-0.
“Good goal for him and I’ll take the assist any day,” smiled the uber-talented third rounder, whose first year with the Wranglers last season saw him land on the AHL’s rookie all-star squad.
“My body felt good for the first time in a long time, so for me just to get out there and feel comfortable is encouraging.”
Poirier missed the Young Stars tourney in Penticton while recovering from off-season knee surgery and spent the early part of main camp wearing a non-contact jersey.
Finally pressed into action in Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss to a young Oilers squad, he flashed the type of offensive flair that made him a junior stud and saw him lead all Wrangler blueliners with 41 points in 69 games.
“You can see his skill level and the ability he has with the puck,” said Flames coach Ryan Huska after a game in which the young man tasked with working on his defensive play was beaten to the outside a few times.
“The hard part for him is he missed the start of camp with the injury and it was, at times, a little quick. We’ve got to get him up to game speed, but I thought he did a good job today.”
A look at a handful of other notables from a game that saw the Flames give up the late, game-tying power play goal thanks to a bad challenge, and had an apparent Yegor Sharangovich game-winner waved off after crossing the line a split second after the buzzer:
Although he faced only 12 shots over the first two periods, two of them were on players in alone on the Flames backup.
With the coach insisting camp is a competition to see how the Flames goaltending situation will unfold, Vladar has responded well, stopping 63 of 67 shots while going 1-0-1.
On this night he made 28 saves with highly-decorated AHL challenger Dustin Wolf looking on.
“He was excellent tonight, one of our players that stood out,” said Huska of the man who will undoubtedly start the season as Jacob Markstrom’s backup.
“I thought there were some big saves down the stretch.”
Threading the needle on some slick passing plays, Kadri was the Flames best skater all night, attempting eight shots on goal and forcing Jack Campbell to make good stops on the five that hit the net.
It bodes well for the club that the veteran has been both creative and engaged throughout the preseason so far.
A relatively quiet night on the top line with Lindholm and Huberdeau, he was on the doorstep to knock in the apparent game-winner before replays showed time had expired at the end of the third just before the puck trickled in.
His speed and quickness were on display as a penalty killer, where he and Blake Coleman almost scored while logging the most shorthanded minutes of all the Flames forwards.
In Oliver Kylington’s absence, it’s looking more and more like Oesterle will open the season alongside Chris Tanev.
The duo was solid, with Oesterle’s smooth stride and crisp passing making him a standout all night, especially while killing penalties.
He had one of the best scoring chances of the night when he crept in to corral a brilliant Huberdeau crossing pass and forced a solid save.
“It’s not easy for a new guy coming in, but anytime people are paired with Chris, the game seems to be easier,” said Huska, who agreed the 31-year-old free agent signing looks comfortable.
“I think he’s done an excellent job so far.
“He takes a lot of pride in how he checks, and he still has the offensive ability to make plays.”
In his first game as captain, he drew a loud ovation when named a starter.
The ovation was markedly louder when he appeared to put the Flames up 2-0 with three minutes left, only to have it called back due to goalie interference from Coleman.
He had a game-high six shots and was heavily involved on the power play and penalty kill.
Only Lindholm played more than Backlund’s 19:02 minutes.
Huberdeau – Lindholm – Sharangovich
Dube – Kadri – Coronato
Coleman – Backlund – Duehr
Honzek – Schwindt – Bishop
Oesterle – Tanev
Hanifin – Andersson
Poirier – Solovyov