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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Flames able to face previous pal Nikita Zadorov in his Canucks debut Specific Instances

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He’s recognized to followers as ‘Huge Z.’

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His former Calgary Flames teammates would typically name him ‘Bobby.’

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Now, beginning with Saturday’s Hockey Evening in Canada conflict, Nikita Zadorov is among the enemies.

Because it seems, the just-traded defenceman will log his Vancouver Canucks debut on the Saddledome, his residence rink for the previous three seasons. The truth is, the 28-year-old Zadorov didn’t even depart Calgary after Thursday’s swap, so he will probably be assembly his new crew at morning skate.

“It’s going to be bizarre seeing Z in a distinct jersey,” mentioned Flames captain Mikael Backlund after Friday’s off-ice exercise. “Once I noticed it occur yesterday, I used to be pondering, ‘Oh wow, we’re taking part in him in a pair days.’ It’s going to be totally different for positive.”

Certainly, it’s.

A soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, Zadorov was flipped Thursday to the Canucks in alternate for a pair of draft picks — a fifth-round swing in 2024 and a third-round choice in 2026.

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The Flames’ equipment-staffers may need instantly dragged Zadorov’s gear down the hallway and plopped it within the guests’ room. Since No. 16 is off-limits in Vancouver, retired in honour of Trevor Linden, the hard-hitting blue-liner will put on No. 91 on the West Coast.

“Expensive Calgary, Thanks for an unforgettable 2.5 years crammed with unimaginable recollections, wonderful folks, devoted followers and the heat of an excellent metropolis,” Zadorov wrote in an Instagram put up from his household to the C of Pink. “You’ll without end maintain a particular place in our hearts. All our love.”

He won’t be feeling as a lot love in Saturday’s showdown on the Saddledome (8 p.m. MT, CBC/Sportsnet, Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

“I don’t know if blue suits him,” teased Flames ahead Jonathan Huberdeau. “Yeah, it’s going to be bizarre, particularly first recreation. However I really feel, for him, it’s in all probability one of the simplest ways to show the web page is to play in opposition to your former staff immediately.”

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That may go each methods.

“It’ll be enjoyable to play in opposition to him,” mentioned Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar with a large smile. “I feel loads of guys may perhaps dump it in his nook and attempt to get after him early and make it arduous on him.

“That’s the enterprise of the sport, how briskly issues can type of flip and how briskly guys depart. However it’s bizarre. He was an excellent man, an excellent teammate. The boys cherished him. However now, there’s no buddies on the opposite aspect. We have now to go at him.”

Throughout his stint in Calgary, ‘Huge Z’ delivered a number of bone-rattling hits and a barrel of locker-room laughs. The group quantity would at all times rise because the towering Russian gained steam on the offensive rush. He was a fan favorite till a highly-publicized commerce request a couple of weeks again.

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“He brings loads of vitality on and off the ice,” Backlund mentioned. “He performs a bodily recreation, however he’s additionally an excellent skater for his dimension. We referred to as him ‘Bobby’ as a result of he loves doing the Bobby Orr, these end-to-ends. We chirped him a bit about that. However he’s an excellent teammate and an excellent man. He’s a loud persona, however he’s a enjoyable man to be round and he brings loads of vitality to the room.”

He’ll be bringing that vitality Saturday to the opposite room.

“It’s an attention-grabbing storyline, for positive — a man simply walks down the corridor type of factor. That doesn’t occur fairly often,” allowed Flames head coach Ryan Huska, whose membership climbed again to .500 with Thursday’s additional time triumph in opposition to the Dallas Stars. “However I feel it’s extra about how our staff is taking part in proper now than a commerce that’s simply occurred. I feel our guys like the place they’re going proper now as a staff and I feel we’re taking part in the proper path.

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“And we all know that Vancouver is a staff that’s forward of us, and one which we now have to look to shut the hole in opposition to.”

Zadorov, after all, can have different concepts.

The Flames have now mentioned their farewells. As their previous pal joins a Pacific Division rival, the pleasantries will cease there.

“You simply ship him a message — ‘Thanks for every little thing,” Weegar mentioned. “He was an excellent good friend. Exterior the rink, he’s an superior man. We went for plenty of dinners on the highway collectively. He’ll be missed right here.

“I want him all the very best. However not on Saturday.”

ICE CHIPS: After Thursday’s commerce with the Canucks, Flames common supervisor Craig Conroy talked concerning the enchantment of opening up a roster spot to “carry up a younger man that we really feel very extremely of in that very same type of position.” So it was no shock Friday when the staff introduced that Ilya Solovyov has been recalled from the AHL’s Wranglers. The 23-year-old Solovyov is a bodily, stay-at-home type … Whereas Chicago Blackhawks phenom Connor Bedard was saluted because the NHL’s rookie of the month for November, Connor Zary was additionally thought of for the honour. Zary put up three objectives and 10 factors in his first month within the large leagues … Now able to return after a two-month harm absence, Flames first-rounder Sam Honzek has been named the captain of the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants … Saturday will mark the Indigenous Celebration Sport on the Saddledome. Jace Starlight will lead the house staff onto the ice in full ceremonial gown, the Canadian nationwide anthem will probably be carried out in Blackfoot by Dilayna Blackhorse and former Flames ahead Rene Bourque — a member of the Metis Nation of Alberta — will drop the ceremonial opening faceoff. “Our Indigenous Celebration Sport has develop into a really significant event for our followers, workers, and gamers and tomorrow’s recreation has been a lot anticipated by everybody,” mentioned Peter Hanlon, vice chairman of communications and neighborhood relations for Calgary Sports activities and Leisure Company. “We once more thank the Chiefs and delegates from all Nations of Treaty 7 for his or her dedication to return along with us and lead us on the journey of reconciliation.”

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

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