January 05 2011 02:11PM
Well, after that 7-2 preseason beating the Flames took to the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary gets set to take on the 'Nucks for the first time this season at Rogers Arena in Van City (8 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960). Oh. That was a regular season game...okay then. So it's the second meeting between the teams this season.
Hey, whether the Flames trail the Canucks by 16 points for or not, it's always a good night when these two teams hook up. The Canucks are playing their best hockey of the season, and the Flames are playing...hockey. Last time out, it was a close game until Vancouver blew it wide open and came away with a 7-2 win in Calgary's barn. This time around, the Flames have a chance to make a statement; not to the league, but to themselves.
Mikael Backlund is back in (finally). Niklas Hagman is out (finally). Two correct decisions for this game, as Backlund needed to return to the lineup, and it comes about five games too late. But, now that he's back in, I guess we can put to bed the disdain for the decision to keep him out. As for Hagman, can anyone really argue the decision? He's been a perimiter player for more than a month, and hasn't really added anything to the team on a regular basis. For a guy with his price tag, and for a guy expected to be a top six forward, it's fair to say it's been a disappointing season thus far for Hagman.
After Calgary's 5-2 loss to the Islanders on Monday night, Brent Sutter is making a few tweaks lineup wise, with the Backlund/Hagman swap being the only personnel change. However, the lines will be mixed up a little, and for good reason...here's what's projected tonight:
Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Brendan Morrison-Mikael Backlund-Rene Bourque
Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-Ales Kotalik
Tom Kostopoulos-David Moss-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk
Obviously the fourth line is going to remain in tact, as they've been the most consistent group over the last few games. There's not a whole lot more we can saw about that trio, because they've been great. Moss and Jackman are driving it, and Kostopoulos is adding something with his physicality. As for the first line, they're coming off two not-so-great games against the Oilers and Isles, and they'll need to come with a much better effort against a tough matchup. They'll probably see a lot of Kesler et al, so they'll have to bring it.
Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net.
Canuck haters like myself have silently chuckled in the past when the term "Stanley Cup contenders" was thrown around applying to them. Well, not anymore. Now I droop my head and cry silent tears, because these mofo's are playing insanely good hockey, and insanely good hockey that is NOT over their skis. They are playing the type of hockey they are capable of playing, and it sucks.
Kent's gameday preview goes in depth into how scary good Ryan Kesler is, and it really breaks down why this team has been as successful as they have. If you're looking for a Canucks perspective, here's our sister site CanucksArmy and their take on what you'll see from the evil empire. Damn them.
It's a deep team getting scoring from a lot of different sources. Mason Raymond, who scored three against Calgary in the first meeting, has recently returned while Jeff Tambellini has fit in just fine on a line with Kesler. Raffi Torres is contributing while Alex Burrows has started to come on as well after a slow start coming off an injury. Oh...and the Cranium Boys are still doing what they do. On the blueline, this team needed some change during the offseason, and they've made it. Dan Hamhuis is coming into his own while Keith Ballard has seemingly turned around after a rough stretch of hockey. Here are projected lines and pairings:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows
Mason Raymond-Ryan Kesler-Jeff Tambellini
Raffi Torres-Manny Malhotra-Mikael Sameulsson
Tanner Glass-Alex Bolduc-Jannik Hansen
Alexander Edler-Christian Ehrhoff
Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Andrew Alberts-Keith Ballard
With Kiprusoff going for Calgary, it'll be Roberto Luongo in net for the Nucks.
Olli Jokinen had said earlier this week that a win in Vancouver would send a message to the league. Well, I don't really but that myself, but a win would certainly be a big boost for the team itself. When Jay Feaster talks about "intellecutal honesty", this is a game that fits it pretty well, especially if they lose. If this team plays a good hockey game and they lose, I think it tells you where the team is at. If the Flames play well and they win, it's not an affirmation of what you thought, but it certainly would be a good boost heading into a home date with the Wings on Friday.