Lamborghinis and line combos dominate the talk of Flames’ opening day

Nazem Kadri talks about his early conversations with coach Darryl Sutter and the give-and-take dialogue they've had regarding player lines in camp.

CALGARY — The only thing faster than the pace the Calgary Flames set to open camp, was the speed of tweets fired out with details of Day 1 line combinations.

And the only thing that stood out more than Jonathan Huberdeau revealing he’s selling his Smurf-blue Lamborghini, was the hair on display on the team’s second line.

As a rather clean-cut Nazem Kadri looked to his wings, the bearded veteran might’ve wondered if he was part of an 80’s metal band, given the ginger flow of Cody Eakin on his left, and the brillo’d bird’s nest of Sonny Milano on the right.

“I don’t know,” smiled Milano, when told he had the best lid in camp.

“Eakin also has some pretty cool hair too.”

Aside from Tyler Toffoli occupying the right wing alongside Elias Lindholm and Huberdeau, the pair of PTO wingers flanking Kadri made for the most noteworthy trio of the day.

The ever-versatile Eakin is undoubtedly acting as a placeholder for Andrew Mangiapane, who is skating on his own as he recovers from a tweak of sorts earlier in the summer.

It puts Milano in the driver’s seat to fill the obvious gap in a top nine that is clearly one player short in the eyes of management.

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“I talked to (head coach Darryl Sutter) the day before I got here (Sunday) and they seemed happy about me coming, telling me there’s a spot open and I’ve just got to get it,” said the 26-year-old who famously converted “The Dishigan” last year with Trevor Zegras, en route to scoring 14 goals and 34 points in 66 games as an Anaheim Duck.

“I had a pretty good season last year. I was definitely hoping for a contract, but it is what it is and I’m definitely excited for this opportunity. If I just do my best and play my game I think I’ll be good.”

After a torrid start last year, Milano only managed to score three goals in his final 27 games, leading to a surprising parting with the Ducks.  

As tough as it was for him to accept a PTO offer, he chose Calgary because of the opportunity that could see him playing alongside top players.

 “I’m with Kadri, who had a hell of a year, and Eakins, who also is a veteran, so it’s a good spot,” he said.

“I think I’ve got a lot to prove. I thought I was worthy of a contract after last season. So I’ve just got to prove I can do it again.”

Insisting he first wants to assess those in camp, GM Brad Treliving wouldn’t deny he was still open to the possibility of adding another winger if, say, Milano isn’t the answer.

“In all honesty, that top nine is still kind of a work in progress for us,” admitted Treliving, speaking largely about the right-side position on the second line.

“I want to get a handle on what we’ve got here, but you’re always sniffing around. I don’t think anybody is done tinkering.”

“This camp is really important to sort out where everyone fits.”

As he joked, “we probably all put our lines together on a napkin — usually that lasts 10 minutes. You don’t know where chemistry is going to come from.”

Jakob Pelletier may be the people’s choice to break through, but when asked if he expected the AHL star to do something special, Sutter said, “No.”

“I think we have guys who can play both sides, so we’re lucky with Blake (Coleman), Mangs, Dubs (Dillon Dube), Cody. It’s not ‘who,’ it’s more like ‘how?’”

Sutter won a Stanley Cup with Toffoli and has long praised how natural a scorer he is, making him the favourite to use his right shot on the top line with a setup ace like Huberdeau.

When asked about the different skill sets between him and the man he’s replacing, Matthew Tkachuk, Sutter was curt.

“One guy’s won Stanley Cups and been a big part of long playoff runs,” he said.

Mikael Backlund, Dube and Coleman formed a third line full of familiarity.

At the back end, the plan seems clear: MacKenzie Weegar will play on his off side with Chris Tanev as the club’s shut-down pair.

“Weegar can play big minutes,” said Sutter of the newbie defender, who is close to signing an extension with the team. 

“Tanny can handle, his shoulder can handle…whoever you put with him.”

Last year, Tanev helped turn Oliver Kylington into a top-four defender.

Kylington is not currently in the mix at camp as he’s dealing with a personal issue, leaving Nikita Zadorov and Nicolas Meloche as the third pairing.

Greeted by the type of media mob he’d never seen in Florida, Huberdeau said he’s already making other adjustments to his new environment, including selling his Tesla and Lamborghini.

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“It would’ve been a little cold,” he said of the convertible, one of “three or four” vehicles owned by the man who signed an $85 million extension with the Flames this summer.

“I’m selling everything. Starting over.”

“I’ve already got a pickup truck. That’s off the list. Then I’m not sure. If you put a convertible with snow tires, maybe that could work.”

Adjustments on the fly — the story of camp for these Flames.

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*Mangiapane out due to injury and Kylington out for personal reasons.

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