January 06 2017 12:00PM
(Anne-Marie Sorvin / USA Today Sports)
We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot delivery in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.
Tonight and tomorrow, in Calgary and Vancouver, we're going to witness a pair of games between the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. When the season began, it didn't seem like these games would be all that important; the Canucks fell off a cliff after a hot start and the Flames quite honestly looked listless and lost. But here were are at the midway point of the season, and this home and home series has incredibly high stakes for both clubs.
Playoff implications will be the talk of these two games. Vancouver can crawl out of the muck and into the playoff pack with a pair of wins. On the other hand, the Flames can functionally punt the Canucks back down the ladder and into said muck with a pair of wins of their own. As previously stated: these are high stakes games between a pair of clubs that nobody expected to be playing high stakes games given how the first few weeks of the season unfolded.
The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Brian Elliott gets the start for Calgary. He's won each of his last five starts and beat Vancouver the last time the Flames played them. He's recovering rather well from a rough start, albeit with a string of games against the NHL's lesser lights probably designed to rebuild his confidence. It's largely worked. He's 8-9-1 with a 2.89 goals against average and .894 save percentage. His goals against finally nudged itself under 3.00 after the Colorado win.
Given the Flames won last time out and seemed to have good energy, I wouldn't expect many (or any) lineup changes. So expect Jyrki Jokipakka and Garnet Hathaway to be the healthy scratches. The Flames remain without Ladislav Smid and Troy Brouwer, though Brouwer is reportedly skating on his own again.
The recipe for the Flames success since mid-November has been rather simple: don't give up too much at even strength, try to hustle enough to draw penalties, and then make hay on the power play. There is no team in the NHL as dangerous as the Flames on the power play over the last dozen or so games. Until their special teams fall off a cliff, expect the Flames to stick to this game plan.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Ryan Miller will likely start for the Canucks. He's been in net for four of Vancouver's past five games, all wins. He's 11-10-1 with a 2.65 goals against average and .912 save percentage. Oddly, his backup Jacob Markstrom has better numbers this season but Miller is seen as the more reliable goaltender.
Vancouver has won five in a row since their loss to the Flames on December 23. They've beaten some soft teams like Colorado and Arizona, but they've also beaten good divisional opponents in Edmonton, Los Angeles and Anaheim. They've been working short several bodies, as they're missing Derek Dorsett, Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows due to injury.
The Canucks are easily the Flames biggest rival in recent years. The games have bite. The teams hate each other. It'll probably be tight-checking and physical. Vancouver's one of the hottest teams in hockey over the past few weeks and the Flames have struggled in the past few weeks when they face hot teams. As rough as Vancouver was to begin the season, and as soundly as the Flames beat them on December 23, these two games aren't going to be a walk in the park.
Believe it or not, the Flames and Canucks have played 266 games against each other in the regular season. The Flames are 130-89-47 all-time, their best record against any NHL franchise. This is the third of five meetings this season; Vancouver beat a rough Flames squad 2-1 in a shootout on October 15, but the Flames outclassed them 4-1 on December 23. After tonight and tomorrow, they play one more time on February 18.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Your recommended follows from the other side for tonight:
SUM IT UP
It'll be a playoff-like atmosphere at Rogers Arena for the first of a home and home between the Flames and the Canucks. And suitably, the results of the next two evenings of hockey could have huge implications for the playoff hopes of both clubs.