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Is Zohorna the Answer to the Flames’ Problem?



Pittsburgh Hockey Now

It’s clear the Calgary Flames have a problem.

Not a major one. At least not yet. But the kind that required action.

To create more urgency among those battling for opening-night spots, the Calgary Flames claimed forward Radim Zohorna off waivers. Battling is a term we’re using loosely.

The 26-year-old is expected to push the players trying to secure middle six winger spots or as the fourth-line centre.

Cody Eakin, Sonny Milano, Kevin Rooney, Adam Ruzicka are the most likely to be affected.

Eakin and Milano are on PTOs and head coach Darryl Sutter has not seen enough to suggest that GM Brad Treliving offer either an NHL contract.

Rooney and Ruzicka have been vying for fourth-line centre duties. But Rooney was recently moved to the wing beside Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman because Dillon Dube is getting a shot on the second line beside Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane.

“Because nobody else has (fit) yet,” Sutter said on Sunday.

As for Zohorna, the Flames are adding a motivated and versatile forward who can play two positions. The 6-foot-6 product of Havlickuv Brod, Czechia, is a bit of a late bloomer. He stood out in his native league in his early 20s and signed on with the Pens as an undrafted free agent. His numbers with the Penguins in a small sample size are promising. So are his stats in the AHL the past couple of seasons.

With four goals and 10 points in 25 NHL games, there’s a feeling of untapped potential. Zohorna also has 15 goals and 32 points in 51 AHL contests. On a one-year deal worth $750,000, there’s little to lose for the Calgary Flames.

Penguins coach praised new Calgary Flames addition

In fact, the Pens may regret losing him. If he’d cleared waivers, the belief is that he would still play Monday night’s preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Mike Sullivan praised Zohorna for his efforts in camp.

“I think (Zohorna) has played extremely well over the course of this training camp,” the Penguins head coach told Pittsburgh Hockey Now before the claim. “That’s one of the reasons he continues to play here.”

Now he’ll be playing for the Flames. That spot beside Backlund looks like a possible fit. Zohorna was widely considered a much-improved player by Pittsburgh writers — including Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

He was working as third-line centre with the Pens, between wingers Brock McGinn and Kasperi Kapanen as a placeholder for the injured Jeff Carter.

Kingerski says Zohorna came back this year much stronger than he was when he first arrived in North America. He’s looked good in camp, going to the net and battling in the corners.

He has good hands to pair with his size and “is very close to being a real NHL player.”

The Calgary Flames must think the same.

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