October 06 2013 02:15PM
The Calgary Flames return home from a season-opening two-game road trip out trying to dig themselves out of...
Wait, they got three points?! Calgary? No kidding? Okay, then...
The Calgary Flames return home to the Scotiabank Saddledome after a pretty impressive road trip, surprising the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets and returning to the Stampede City with three of a possible four points. Now they hope to continue last season's home success when they begin their home calendar against the hated Vancouver Canucks, who they got three of a possible 10 points out of last season.
The Flames home record was one of a handful of bright spots from last season and, after the season-threatening flood and the Herculean effort undertaken to keep the doors open at the Dome, the club undoubtedly wants to maintain a solid home record – rebuild or no rebuild. The puck drops a bit after 6pm and there's a bunch of stuff happening outside the 'Dome beginning around 4pm, including a tailgate party and Theoren Fleury signing autographs. Sportsnet has the TV broadcast, while the Fan 960 has the game on the old squawk-box.
The Flames are without Mike Cammalleri (hand), Chris Breen (shoulder) and Matt Stajan (leg contusion). However, they're likely coming home with a spring in their collective step, and Flames coach Bob Hartley has to be happy that two games of buy-in from his hockey club resulted in two games where they walked away with points. Especially on the road, where the Flames don't have last change and generally weren't that good last season. (They were awful on the road last year.)
From our pals at DailyFaceoff, the projected Flames line-up:
Galiardi – Backlund – Hudler
Glencross – Colborne – Jones
Baertschi – Monahan – Stempniak
Bouma – Street – McGrattan
Brodie – Giordano
Wideman – Russell
Butler – O'Brien
Jiri Hudler has scored two bullet goals to start the year (see above) and Mikael Backlund has a couple of points as well. Backs has been tentative in the offensive zone so far, but started to look a lot more comfortable in the latter half of the Blue Jackets game. He's by far Calgary'sbest pivot with Stajan out, so they'll need him to continue to improve.
Because Joey MacDonald got the win and Karri Ramo didn't, MacDonald starts the home-opener. As much as people probably wanted to see Ramo at home, it's pretty typical NHL coaches logic to go with the hot hand when there's no clear cut starter on the team.
After two games, there's a lot to like about the Flames line-up, particularly the balance between youth and vets on each line. Dennis Wideman has also been excellent, allowing the coaching staff to lean on the top two pairings and shield the O'Butler pairing a bit, although Wideman and Russell are getting the lions share of offensive zone faceoffs at 5on5, which helps.
Sean Monahan makes his home NHL debut tonight, while Colborne and Galiardi play their first game at home for their hometown team.
The Canucks played last night at home and demolished the Oilers, so they didn't practice this morning. Presuming there's no line-up changes from last night – and there's no reason to expect there will be, given their success – here's probable lines via DailyFaceoff:
D.Sedin – H.Sedin – Hansen
Booth – Kesler – Higgins
Weise – Richardson – Santorelli
Sestito – Dalpe – Alberts
Hamhuis – Bieksa
Edler – Garrison
Tanev – Stanton
Eddie Lack gets the start as per Daily Faceoff after Luongo played in the late game on Hockey Night In Canada last night. The Canucks were full value at home, swarming and basically embarrassing an over-matched Oilers club. In other words, after a disappointing effort against the Sharks on the road, the Canucks did what they had to do to regain some much-needed confidence.
The Canucks top-six is pretty strong, particularly the insane passing prowess of the Sedins. Ryan Kesler doesn't appear to be hampered by injuries this year, and seems to be playing a lot more like the dominant Selke winner we saw a few yers ago. He had a goal, a fight and nine shots on net against the Oil last night.
Beyond that, though, the Canucks have okay depth, with nobody that's going to be a huge threat to light the lamp, but a lot of guys who work hard every shift. On the back end, the tendency is towards offensively-mobile but occasionally defensive wonky blueliners, which makes the Canucks a tremendously potent offensive team when they're clicking.
SUM IT UP
It's the home-opener! A mere three months after the Saddledome was full of murky water, the Calgary Flames open their home schedule (after a very strong roadie) against arguably their most bitter rival. It should be an emotional night either way down at Stampede Park.
What's not to like?
For a view from the other side, check out Canucks Army.