September 29 2011 12:27PM
A nine day break follows Calgary's final preseason game tonight, as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes, hoping to finish their exhibition schedule with a bang (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960). It's a 'Yotes lineup with plenty of NHL experience, so this will be one of the better evaluating opportunities the team has had to this point. They also want to put forth a solid effort heading into an extended break prior to their regular season opener.
It's now official, Jarome Iginla will not play a preseason game this year for the Flames. The good news is, the captain did skate on his own for 20 minutes or so today, which is the first time he's skated since the first training camp session two weeks ago. There's still no word on when Iginla will be ready to return to full practices, but the hope is he'll be ready to start the regular season.
It's another look for Roman Horak and Paul Byron, along with Lance Bouma; all three guys are hoping to crack the opening day lineup if injury situations play in, or if there is merit for them to be playing. I'm not sure there is going to be an open spot, but I did find it interesting hearing from Brent Sutter this morning when asked about the play of Niklas Hagman. Sutter said Hagman had been good, but said there is nothing set in terms of their opening day lineup...I'm likely reading between the lines but I did find it interesting.
Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Niklas Hagman-Mikael Backlund-Lance Bouma
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Guillaume Desbiens
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Anton Babchuk
Cory Sarich-Derek Smith
It's Sarich's first preseason game, and this is obviously something he's pretty jacked up about. I believe Sarich is a top six defender on this team, and I think he's a better option than guys like Smith or Jordan Henry. Speaking of Henry, he won't play for a second straight game, which begs the question: why? Is it because they like him enough and don't need to see anymore? Or is it because he likely won't be on the opening day roster? The Flames haven't said anything, but a few I've talked to have suggested that the team really likes Smith.
Miikka Kiprusoff goes the whole way and gets the start in net tonight.
The Coyotes are certainly a much better test than Tuesday's opponent in the New York Islanders. They'll ice a fairly veteran lineup tonight featuring players with good NHL experience. We can tell you Daymond Langkow will not play against his former team, which is a little too bad, as it would have been nice to see him go.
Ray Whitney-Lauri Korpikoski-Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt-Martin Hanzal-Patrick O'Sullivan
Raffi Torres-Boyd Gordon-Brett MacLean
Paul Bissonnette-Kyle Chipchura-Mikkel Boedker
Adrian Aucoin-Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Rostislav Klesla-Michal Roszival
Keith Yandle-David Schlemko
Jason LaBarbera gets the start in net, and he's likely to go the whole way. Goaltending is the one issue many question about this edition of the Coyotes, as LaBarbera will likely be pairied with Mike Smith in between the pipes this year. The players on the skating roster are solid, but that's not a tandem I'd want to go to battle with.
While Iginla was the story here at the 'Dome, the story of the game is what type of effort the Flames bring. With a long, nine day break coming up, they're going to have to put forward a pretty good effort and I think it's important to set the tone prior to that downtime.