CALGARY — Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins will make their debuts with the Calgary Flames Wednesday night playing on a line with centre Daymond Langkow against the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. MT).
“Let’s see how things unfold,” said Calgary coach Brent Sutter in regards to the new trio. “I want these guys to come in and be themselves and play their types of games. Daymond can be a calming influence for both those guys.”
After losing 3-0 at home to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, the Flames (27-21-8) traded forwards Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the New York Rangers for Higgins and Kotalik.
Higgins made it to Calgary in time for an afternoon practice Tuesday, but Kotalik got held up in New York when his flight was cancelled. He arrived later Tuesday night and met with reporters for the first time on Wednesday morning, after Calgary’s game-day skate at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“I’ve got to be professional about it in coming to the new team,” said Kotalik, who was a healthy scratch for eight of his last nine games with the Rangers. “I’m pretty excited and I’m going to take it as a new start.”
Higgins and Kotalik both had a short tenure with the Rangers, having been acquired by New York in the off-season, and didn’t spend much time playing on a line together. But they gained a mutual respect for each other’s talents.
“We understand each other’s games,” said Higgins, who’s confident he and Kotalik can work well on Calgary second line with Langkow. “Obviously both of us want to start off on the right foot. Hopefully we can make it work.”
Calgary fans are eager for a victory, and Kotalik has extra motivation to make the most of his new surroundings, given his limited playing time in New York.
“I think it’s a good situation for us,” said the 31-year-old right-winger, who had eight goals, 15 assists and a minus-18 rating in 45 games with the Rangers.
“We come to a great hockey city with passionate Canadian fans. I’m just excited to be a part of it. I hope I can establish myself here and be a part of the team success.”
With just three assists and no goals in his past 14 games, Langkow is hoping to regain his scoring touch with his new linemates.
“We’re all good players and we have to go out there and play with confidence and find some chemistry quickly,” Langkow said. “Obviously I’ve got to be better. I haven’t been good enough and I know that. I’m going to keep playing hard and hopefully I can start putting some pucks in the net.”
Higgins and Kotalik will be the fifth and sixth new forwards to debut this week with the Flames, who also traded defenceman Dion Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and defensive prospect Keith Aulie to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.
That trade was made in exchange for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers along with blue-liner Ian White. Stajan and Hagman have been inserted on Calgary’s top line with captain Jarome Iginla, while Mayers is slated to start out Wednesday’s game on the checking unit with Eric Nystrom and Curtis Glencross.
After practising on a line with Dustin Boyd and Rene Bourque Tuesday, rookie forward Mikael Backlund expects to get back into the lineup after watching Monday’s loss as a healthy scratch.
“I like our combination there with a lot of speed and skill,” said Backlund, who had a goal and an assist in his first three games with the Flames last week when Calgary went 1-0-2. “It’s always hard to sit in the stands and watch. It’s too bad we lost and hopefully we can get momentum back.”