Granlund, Ortio set to make NHL debuts as Flames host Kings
(SportsNetwork.com) - Fourteen points out of a playoff spot and considered a team still rebuilding, the Calgary Flames may feature a number of new faces down the stretch of the season.
That will be the case on Thursday night when a pair of players make their NHL debuts in a clash with the Los Angeles Kings.
Goaltender Joni Ortio and forward Markus Granlund are both expected to play tonight for the Flames after putting together solid campaigns so far with the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League.
The 20-year-old Granlund, a 2011 second-round pick of the Flames, has netted 23 goals and 44 points in 50 games with the Heat. He is expected to center the fourth line between Paul Byron and Kevin Westgarth.
"You can play only one first NHL game, so I'm just going to try and enjoy the game," said Granlund.
Ortio, who like Granlund hails from Finland, is 20-6-0 in 28 games with the Heat this season, posting an impressive 2.22 goals against average. His start tonight will give Swiss Reto Berra some extra time to recover after having traveled to Sochi, Russia for the Olympics.
Flames goaltender Karri Ramo is currently out with a sprained right MCL, opening the door for Ortio to debut along with Granlund.
"It's exciting. I'm happy that we get to make our debut at the same time," Ortio grinned. "It's a fun coincidence and it's going to be fun."
The Flames sit 14 points out of a wild card spot despite winning six of eight going into the Olympic break. They have managed to beat the Kings twice already this season in Los Angeles and will try to defeat the club at home for the first time in five encounters.
The Kings will play their second game following the Olympic break, having bested the hosting Colorado Avalanche 6-4 last night. Anze Kopitar had two goals and an assist, while Justin Williams and Jeff Carter helped the rally with a goal and an assist each.
Kopitar and Carter scored 2:04 apart in the second period to tie the game at 4-4 and Kopitar's power-play goal 3:13 into the third frame put his club ahead for good.
"Those two quick (goals) at the end of the second were huge and we carried that momentum into the third," Kopitar said. "It's nice to start off the third with a power play."
Robyn Regehr and Jarret Stoll also lit the lamp as the Kings have won two straight following a four-game slide. They did so by scoring six goals, nearly half the output of the 15 goals they had scored in their previous 11 games.
Backup Martin Jones stopped 25-of-29 shots in the victory, giving No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Quick some more rest after Quick served as the starting netminder for Team USA in the Olympics.
Quick may start tonight and is 8-5-1 with a 1.62 GAA and .935 save percentage in 14 previous meetings with the Flames.
Los Angeles is five points ahead of Vancouver for third place in the Pacific Division.
02/27 11:05:45 ET