Preseason Games Nos. 1 and 2: Splitsville

Today is the first day we will see NHL players doing their jobs in a competitive format since last June, and it’s been considerably longer than that since we saw anyone do it in a Flames jersey. Whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen, I suppose, but as far as the competition goes, well, you may want to temper your excitement.

To give you an idea of the type of rosters both Canucks squads are going to be rolling out tonight, all one needs to do is look at their top lines. In Calgary, Joel Perrault, a 27-year-old veteran of a whopping 89 NHL games, runs the pivot for the formidable duo of Jeff Tambellini and Jannik Hansen.

But Canucks kept the big guns back home. They will start with a line featuring, from left to right, the ghost of Peter Schaeffer’s unimpressive career, brainless thug Rick Rypien (his dad was a boxer!) and Victor Oreskovich, whom the Florida Panthers of all teams relegated to fourth-line minutes last year.

The Flames, on the other hand, are bringing MOABs to what Canucks brass clearly intended to be a snowball fight. Among the names of those playing in Vancouver tonight are Rene Bourque, Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan and Mark Giordano, which is sufficiently impressive. But they’re icing a more-or-less NHLer-laden roster for the home crowd in what must be an effort to placate those that would show up to the Saddledome tonight with torches and effigies ready to go if there’s even a hint that Olli Jokinen is still fairly bad.

Speaking of our dear Pumpkinhead, it’s interesting that they’re already giving the top line of Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla a go, perhaps in hopes of creating some sort of time vortex that would pull the universe back four years when that unit would have been considered formidable, rather than the broken-down remnants of a rapidly-yellowing Darryl Sutter wishlist that is, honestly, a bit mauve-ish already.

Of note too is that despite Vancouver rolling out two rosters, they saw fit to avoid using either Sedin twin, Roberto Luongo, Dan Hamhuis, Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, Alex Edler, and so on and so forth. Although it is comical that even with a bunch of 19-year-olds in the lineup, they’re not going to give Darcy Hordichuk any more than like eight minutes a night because he really is awful.

I figure most of the stuff to watch for tonight mostly has to do with the blue line. Issues worth tracking include whether Robyn Regehr seems particularly engaged, since he spent so much of last year appearing to be rather the opposite, and what in the name of Lanny McDonald Jay Bouwmeester is doing paired with Matt Pelech — or more specifically, if this means he’s about to usurp Adam Pardy’s regular lineup spot like everyone figures he will.

Ah well, if nothing else, it’s real live NHLish hockey. You’re gonna love it.