The Calgary Flames have been without Lance Bouma's services ever since a shot block went wrong in the third final game of the regular season. The Flames, still without a clinched playoff spot, were fighting a surprisingly tough Arizona Coyotes team in what ended up being a game far too close for comfort when Bouma went down towards the end of the second period, and did not return.
The Flames have been without him since.
The physical presence returns - maybe
He may, however, be back soon - possibly as early as Game 4 - as he participated in full practice today, on a line with Matt Stajan and David Jones.
Do those linemates sound familiar to you? They should: the two, combined with Micheal Ferland, combined to form a formidable shutdown trio that drove the Vancouver Canucks bonkers.
It wasn't so much Stajan and Jones who made Vancouver lose its mind, though. It was the big, young kid with a penchant for hitting and the occasional goal who ended up playing a surprising pivotal role in the series, and who ultimately ended it.
Does that description sound familiar to you?
Bouma vs Ferland
Ferland has taken warmups for Games 2 and 3 since being forced to leave just a period into Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks, but has yet to actually return to the series, and at this point, it's unclear if his season is over or not. The breakout physical rookie hasn't really been replaced by anyone.
Bouma, meanwhile, enjoyed a surprising offensive year. That part may not be likely to repeat itself; he shot at 15.4%, setting a new career record dating back to junior with 16 goals. The fact that Bouma has never been a big offensive player, only to randomly break out this season, cautions he shouldn't be counted on to be an offensive force.
(Ferland, while not yet a real scorer in the NHL, has put up excellent junior and AHL numbers, so we may be able to expect more from him down the line.)
One thing Bouma can be counted on for, though: to hit people. A lot. And probably keep his emotions more in check than Ferland along the while. That's what experience will do for you.
Bouma may not be as good as Ferland, but he's not an insignificant addition to the lineup, even if no longer on the top six. (Sorry Lance - Sam Bennett has firmly usurped your position on Mikael Backlund's left.)
Who comes out?
For the most part, the Flames have been utilizing a revolving cast on the fourth line. Brandon Bollig and Josh Jooris have generally always been there, while guys like Markus Granlund, Mason Raymond, and even Drew Shore that one time have drawn in the final forward spot.
Based on lines today - not to mention general recent performances - Raymond is the guy who stays in. That's for the best: not only does he have the most experience, professional or even just playoff-wise, out of everyone else, but as of late he's made a very strong case to not come out of the lineup.
And if Ferland does end up coming back, and the Flames have both him and Bouma in the lineup, you'd have to think Bollig would be the one to come out. After all, the three of them are physical left wingers, and Bouma and Ferland should take priority, Bollig's inexplicable penchant for scoring playoff goals aside.
This is, of course, all speculation
Bouma has not yet been cleared. He is still officially day-to-day, just has he has been over the past month. But his participation in a full practice on Ferland's old line sure does point to some hopeful signs.
Bouma probably isn't as good as Ferland, but he does bring back an element the Flames have been missing since the rookie had to leave the series: physicality and a willingness to hit everything that moves.
Ferland was smart about his hits, but often ran a little too wild. Bouma tends to get caught in his own zone a lot, but he's also more controlled. And a physical kid back alongside Stajan and Jones could translate to good things.
You know, if he's actually back.
Which he might be.
He hasn't played a playoff game since joining the Abbotsford Heat for just five games upon conclusion of his junior career, so you've got to think if anyone's raring to go, it's Bouma.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash">#Flames</a> LW Lance Bouma repeated several times today that he is "day-to-day." Couldn't wipe the smile off his face, though.</p>— Wes Gilbertson (@SUNGilbertson) <a href="https://twitter.com/SUNGilbertson/status/596377177802702848">May 7, 2015</a></blockquote>
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