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Flames recall Emile Poirier, David Wolf, John Ramage, and Brett Kulak from Adirondack

That's how you know it's playoff time: the black aces are showing up.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Calgary Flames aren't in an emergency situation. Not really. They've safely clinched a playoff spot, and with that comes the time-honoured tradition of filling your pressbox with rookies. They practice with the team, they watch and learn from the pressbox, and they're already there in case things get dicey in the post-season.

The Flames could, however, be a little sore. And that soreness could be enough to justify emergency recalls, and give any veterans with minor ailments a little break for tomorrow's regular season finale against the Winnipeg Jets. This sudden influx of recalls is also likely about bringing up players the organization sees potential in, and getting them integrated in an NHL playoff atmosphere. Hence, forwards Emile Poirier and David Wolf, and defencemen John Ramage and Brett Kulak have been recalled, on "emergency basis".

It does, of course, come at the expense of the Adirondack Flames. With six games left, they're five points out of a playoff spot, and need to leapfrog three teams to get there. It doesn't look good, and really hasn't ever since they lost starter Joni Ortio. Ortio remains with the Flames on emergency basis thanks to Karri Ramo's day-to-day injury, and it's entirely possible he'll never see AHL action again.

This is all to say: the NHL Flames are in the playoffs, the AHL ones really aren't likely to make it, and the NHL takes priority, anyway.

Poirier and Wolf are two of Adirondack's top three scorers, passed only by Kenny Agostino (who has played more games). In the AHL, Poirier has 17 goals and 39 points in 51 games. In the NHL, he has one assist in five games. Wolf, meanwhile, has 19 goals and 36 points in 55 AHL games, and has played two NHL games.

Poirier has top six potential, while Wolf is the kind of player the Flames should be seeking to fill out their fourth line as opposed to making ill-advised trades for Brandon Bolligs: big, yes, tough, yes, but also has the potential to score and actually, you know, play hockey. Neither is necessarily NHL ready just yet, but both - Poirier especially - are likely being looked at to have long futures with the club.

As for the defencemen, if any prospect gets first crack, it's likely Tyler Wotherspoon, because there's a reason he's the one who's been recalled four times, after all. Also, there's the fact that both Ramage and Kulak have, very recently, spent time in the ECHL.

Ramage had just one assist in 50 AHL games in his rookie pro year last season before being sent down to the ECHL. There, he really found his gear in the playoffs, putting up 13 points over 20 games as he helped the Alaska Aces win the Kelly Cup. This season, he's stuck around in the AHL, putting up three goals and 14 points over 53 games for Adirondack. Those 53 games are third-most out of all Adirondack defencemen, behind just Wotherspoon and Nolan Yonkman.

Kulak, meanwhile, split his time between the AHL and ECHL. With a lot of bodies in Adirondack, being sent down to Colorado allowed him to play more minutes. Kulak scored nine goals and put up 30 points over 39 games with the Eagles before an injury to Ryan Culkin - who just resumed skating today - necessitated his return to the baby Flames. He has four goals and nine points over 22 games at the AHL level.

As this is an emergency recall, it's possible all four play against the Jets tomorrow, along with the aforementioned Ortio and Wotherspoon, and maybe even some guy named Sam Bennett. The Flames can still potentially take home ice advantage, but they need the Vancouver Canucks to lose their regular season finale against the Edmonton Oilers to do so, and, well, the Canucks aren't the Kings (because they're in the playoffs, you see). So in a game essentially devoid of all meaning... why not give the kids a go before the real games get underway?

When the playoffs start, they probably won't be suiting up. Not unless the team suffers an intense number of significant injuries all at once, which is pretty unlikely. They will, however, probably be joined by more of their teammates as black aces, taking in the NHL playoffs from above, depending on how long the Flames stick around.

Hopefully it'll be a long while.