Micheal Ferland returned to practice for the Calgary Flames this morning, way earlier than expected for the young sparkplug. He was diagnosed with a sprained MCL after an awkward collision on the boards in the 3-2 OT win against the Red Wings on October 23rd. Ferland was initially listed as week-to-week, and placed on the IR on the 28th. His recovery time has been about 16 days, which is an impressive recovery time when you consider that he was supposed to be out for 4-6 weeks.
Bob Hartley also indicated after practice that Ferland could play tomorrow versus the Florida Panthers, but will remain a game time decision. His availability is important, not only because it allows the Flames to add some depth scoring to their roster, but because it also decreases the likelihood of Brandon Bollig stepping on the ice. Both of those things are good.
Though it must we must remain a little cautious of sending Ferland back out there. He's a young guy coming off of a knee injury, and placing him back in the lineup early could easily result in further damage to that knee, especially considering his physical style of play. The current lineup just beat the Pittsburgh Penguins (good) 5-2, and are now going to face the Florida Panthers (meh), so there's no immediate need for Ferland's presence. Give him a little more time to recover. It's the right thing to do for both player and team in the long term.
But if he's back, who does he replace, and how does the rest of the lineup look? He's most likely going to be reunited with Matt Stajan and David Jones, forcing Joe Colborne to fourth line duties with Derek Grant and Josh Jooris (with the way this roster is constructed, an all-centre line was inevitable), and Mason Raymond back to the press box. Alternatively, Derek Grant could be sent back down to Stockton, but would need to be waived again. With the way Grant has been playing, that probably won't happen, but it remains an option.
Alternatively, Ferland could replace the other Mike F. on the roster. The other big piece of news from morning practice was that Michael Frolik missed practice with an illness, and is also a gametime decision. If Frolik isn't ready to go and Ferland is, then it kind of makes sense to place Ferland in Frolik's spot. He certainly isn't the possession player Frolik is, but he's a fast player with a wicked shot, and will certainly benefit from playing with Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett. With that skill set, he can both compliment and benefit from those two. The other option is Joe Colborne, who is big and slow and hasn't worked out with Bennett or Backlund.
Whatever is decided tomorrow, it's good to have the mayoral candidate back, and a healthier Flames team.