News and notes: Joni Ortio recalled

Tom Szczerbowski

Down to just one healthy goaltender, the Flames have recalled Joni Ortio from the Abbotsford Heat.

During the Feb. 1 game against the Wild, Karri Ramo was forced to leave towards the end of the first period. Today, it was announced he was diagnosed with an MCL sprain, and is expected to remain out until after the Olympic break.

Since the Flames can't just carry only one healthy goaltender on the roster, they have recalled prospect and Abbotsford Heat starter Joni Ortio. With three games left before the Olympics, he just might get a game in, although Reto Berra is expected to start tomorrow's matchup in Montreal.




Ortio is currently one of the best goalies in the AHL. He is third in the league in save percentage, with .930, behind only 30-year-old Mike McKenna and recent LA Kings rookie sensation Martin Jones, who is now Jonathan Quick's full time backup. He has the greatest save percentage of all rookie goalies in the AHL as well. Ortio has two shutouts in 25 games played.

Ortio has also played four games for the ECHL's Alaska Aces. This was back when Brossoit was still Flames property, and the two goalies were rotated between the ECHL and AHL so as to ensure they would be getting starts, although Ortio spent more time in the AHL. In the ECHL, he posted a save percentage of .944, and let in a grand total of four goals, recording two shutouts.

This isn't Ortio's first time playing on North American rinks. He originally dressed for 10 games for the Heat over the course of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, but wound up playing in the SM-liiga for two seasons instead. As Ortio told Flames.com:

"I was pretty good from the get-go. I was here two years ago so I kind of knew what to expect. This is so much more comfortable coming in. I knew what was going to go on. There’s not anything new to me coming into training camp and going down to Abby. That was just so much easier to get adjusted again and just focused on playing hockey."

Joey MacDonald is out with an injury for Abbotsford. Abbotsford's netminders for the meantime, then, appear to be Olivier Roy, who was acquired in the Flames' trade for Ladislav Smid, in which they gave up goalie prospect Laurent Brossoit; and Thomas Heemskerk, who is likely there for insurance, as he was just signed to a professional tryout. Heemskerk's last AHL experience was for the Worcester Sharks earlier this season.

Street reassigned

To make room for Ortio's callup, the Flames have sent Ben Street back down to Abbotsford. Street played just five games during his call up, never seeing the ice for more than ten minutes a game. He recorded no points and was a healthy scratch against the Wild.

Street, however, is one of the Heat's top scorers. He's currently sitting in third on the team with 17 goals and 33 points in 31 games. Max Reinhart and Markus Granlund are the only Heat members to have scored more than him, albeit in more games, although both have been called up to the Flames at different times this year. Reinhart saw NHL action during four games in November, while Granlund has yet to play.

Street was named one of the Heat's representatives for the AHL All-Star game, which takes place over Feb. 11 and 12. Chad Billins will join him.

Backlund third star

Mikael Backlund has been named the NHL's third star of the week, behind Zach Parise and Phil Kessel. Backlund had two points in all three games he played this past week, registering a total of four goals and two assists, including two shorthanded goals as well as the overtime winner against the Wild. You can read more about Backlund's confidence, and what other factors have contributed to his recent success, here.

Russell skating

After sitting out last game with an upper body injury, Kris Russell skated with the team this morning and is joining the Flames on the road trip. Chris Butler may be his partner next game. If Russell's good to go, Chris Breen can be expected to be the healthy scratch, as he played only 4:30 against the Wild.

Beanpot

Finally, tonight marks the start of the Beanpot, a short NCAA hockey tournament between Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern. The Flames will have two prospects playing for Boston College, as Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau will look to win their school's fifth straight championship. Gaudreau won MVP in his first Beanpot tournament in 2012.


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