The Flames begin the preliminary phase of the season with a pair of encounters against the Canucks, and while the pre-season has merely been a place for the veterans to ease in to things for past clubs, this fall might actually see an expensive player have a meeting with the Turk. That decision is still a few weeks out, though, so this evening will mostly act as a last chance for a few marginal types to get a game in the Flaming C before being sent away.
With the home-and-home split squad format, the team has divvied up the likely suspects into two more or less even groups. The Calgary side will include the Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla line, as well as Kiprusoff, Regehr, White, and Bouwmeester. The Tanguay group is going to get a chance to prove itself for the whole pre-season unless something quite odd occurs, and I did note with some interest Alex Tanguay’s positive response to the premise that he might end up, in practical terms, as the center of that line. Having watched Olli Jokinen’s defensive work below the hashmarks over the last couple of seasons, I won’t object to the Flames experimenting in that manner if they feel determined to play the three of them as a unit. I’m cognizant of the difference between "good" and "better than the alternative", of course.
Speaking of the Sex Panther, another interview that I found very interesting was the one conducted with him yesterday afternoon. A media member asked him if he’d played the point on the PP before, and he mentioned that he’d routinely done so with some success during his stay in Florida. I don’t think I’m engaging in over-analysis when I say that the Finn was hinting quite strongly that he’d welcome that sort of arrangement. He did offer the usual boiler-plate about doing whatever he was asked, but the inference seemed fairly blatant. I suspect that sort of PP deployment will feature in the preparation games as well.
Out in Vancouver, the Stajan-Hagman-Bourque line will be the lead hands, with Mark Giordano, Cory Sarich and Steve Staios manning the blue. Two of the club’s better prospects will head to the coast as well. T.J. Brodie, who seemed a cut above most at the prospect tournament, will get a game alongside Cory Sarich if yesterday’s pairs hold, and Mitch Wahl will join the roster headed to Rogers Arena as well. The Flames’ next contestant in the eternal game of "who will open the gate 72 times a season", Henrik Karlsson, is also slated to have his first chance to play against the faux-Nucks.
It is slightly unfortunate that neither line-up will see anything remotely resembling the final Vancouver squad. With the Canucks having a home game against Edmonton Wednesday evening, they’ve decided to rest virtually every player of note, and certainly every forward. Raffi Torres is possibly the most accomplished player headed to Calgary, and Keith Ballard will anchor the roster that will host the Vancouver end of things. Both Canuck line-ups are pretty thin gruel.
With the depleted state of both Vancouver rosters, there won’t really be that much to glean from this pair of matches, but Karlsson’s work, the ongoing chemistry experiment for the Big Three and Joker’s work on the PP are the main items of potential interest. Game times are 7 MT at the Dome and 8 MT in Vancouver, with the home tilt on Sportsnet One, if one can believe the Flames’ website. If you see any line-up changes of note, feel free to post them in comments.