There’s not much reason for either club to show up tonight, outside of, you know, because they’re being paid to. The Canucks have the NW division sewn up and are well clear of anyone chasing for second in the conference. The Flames, on the other hand, are done like a thrice boiled potato.
Vancouver may still have an eye on the Blues for first in the WC, but that’s merely window dressing. It wouldn’t surprise me if they start resting bodies heading into the last few games of the year. For their part, the Flames are getting bodies back and are actually playing better hockey by and large, but it’s too little, too late. The game versus the Avs last night was one of the best in the last few months, but some bad luck and mediocre goaltending resulted in the loss.
It’s ironic that Calgary is finally starting to outshoot and outchance some teams again, only to see their record deflate and the season end. The unfortunate corollary of winning games you don’t really deserve (as the club did through January and February) is it’s also possible to lose games probably shouldn’t have now and then. As we’ve seen before, the hockey gods are fickle.
Nothing much will change for Calgary tonight, although we might actually see Karlsson in net – which is a mighty big surprise to me, even though the game is meaningless. Flames have gone to great lengths to bypass the big guy completely for the last month or so.
Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Comeau – Stajan – Stempniak
Jackman – Jones – Kostopolous
Butler – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Sarich
Hannan – Babchuk
While the game is meaningless to the team as a whole, a few pending free agents are still playing for contracts. Cory Sarich got back into the lineup last night and was reunited with former partner Mark Giordano on the second pairing. While Cory is not very mobile and tends to get hurt now and then, he’s certainly proven this year that he can still play at the NHL level. While I doubt he’ll be re-signed by Calgary this summer, I think he could still help another NHL club as a 5-7 option. That’s good news for a guy who started the last couple of seasons as a healthy scratch.
Comeau, Stempniak, Jones, Kostopolous, Moss, Jokinen and Hannan are all guys who have the last three contests to audition for a new contract in July. Jones and Comeau are RFA’s, but are fringe enough players that being re-signed at all is still in question for them.
The Canucks have undergone a bit of a face life since the last time the two teams faced each other. Gone is Cody Hodgson, while Zack Kassian and Sammy Pahlsson were added.
Lapierre – Sedin – Burrows
Raymond – Kesler – Booth
Higgins – Pahlsson – Hansen
Ebbett – Malhotra – Kassian
Edler – Tanev
Hamhuis – Salo
Gragnani – Alberts
The first line looks a bit different with Lapierre in for the injured Glimmer Twin. The Canucks third line has been doing damage recently, with Chris Higgins recently scoring his 17th goal of the year. Each of Higgins, Pahlsson and Hansen are very capable ES players, which is why the Canucks remain an elite team – not only do they have a top end featuring the Sedins and Kesler, but their bottom end boasts a number of pretty cheap guys who can nevertheless drive the play in the right direction, even against good competition.
Kevin Bieksa is out on the back-end this evening, meaning youngster Tanev moves up into the top-4. It will also be interesting to see how MA Gragnani plays on the third pairing – he was a bit of a throw-in in the Hodgson/Kassian deal but with AHL seasons of 52, 51, 43 and 60 points over the last four seasons, might be a Giordano-like late bloomer for Vancouver going forward.
Luongo likely to go in net.
Make sure to check out Canucks Army for the enemy’s perspective.
The Canucks are warming up for the post-season. The Flames are warming up for the golf course.