We’re eight days prior to the start of the NHL’s regular season and inching closer and closer to final cuts. With 38 guys left in camp, there are still roster decisions to be made at more or less every position.
The Flames face the New York Rangers tonight at the Saddledome in their sixth of seven pre-season outings. The Rangers are almost on the opposite trajectory as the Flames – they’re coming off a playoff year, they’re poised for a strong season, and they’re playing the third of six pre-season games.
Calgary is enjoying a fairly productive pre-season, having posted a 3-2-0 record over their first five games. Now that things are getting serious in terms of roster decisions, they’re putting together a line-up that is getting closer to being their opening day roster.
Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
Galiardi – Monahan – Reinhart
Ferland – Backlund – Knight
Bouma – Horak – McGrattan
Russell – Wideman
Giordano – Brodie
Smith – O’Brien
In terms of guys battling to stay on the big team, it’s notable that Ferland, Knight and Reinhart are dressing, as they’re probably on the outside looking in for final roster spots. With Reto Berra playing on Wednesday, we see Ramo tonight, as well as a defensive group devoid of young’uns. I’d expect we’ll see two or three of Ramage, Sieloff and Wotherspoon on Wednesday, as well as perhaps Baertschi, David Jones and Jackman. Hudler and Cammalleri are nursing injuries, but should be ready for opening day.
In terms of battles, pay particular attention to how Derek Smith fares, as he may be competing with Chris Butler and the afroementioned kid trio, as well as the guys in the bottom two lines. Oh, and the guy in goal. But he should be noticeable either way.
The Flames complete their pre-season schedule on Wednesday at home against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Rangers have 39 bodies in camp – they’re without Derek Stepan, who is still embroiled in a contract dispute with the cap strapped Rags – and have been holding camp in Banff since last week. They lost to the Devils last Monday and beat the Flyers on Tuesday in their first two pre-season games.
Here are the Blueshirts line combos via Pat Steinberg:
Rick Nash – Brad Richards – Chris Kreider
Marek Hrivik – Brian Boyle – Danny Kristo
Taylor Pyatt – Oscar Lindberg – Jesper Fast
Brandon Mashinter – Darroll Powe – Arron Asham
Marc Staal – Michael Del Zotto
John Moore – Anton Stralman
Justin Falk – Stu Bickel
The Rangers are beginning a span of four games in five days, including meetings with the Oilers, Canucks and Kings. So expect them to rotate through basically all of their available bodies in short order. Tonight they are boasting a fairly veteran laden roster, including Richards, Nash, Boyle, Del Zotto, Stralman and Staal. Going to be a stiff test for the Flames kids.
SUM IT UP
Five pre-season games down, two to go for the Flames. With 15 cuts left to make for the hometown team, tonight’s game should prove very interesting, perhaps winning somebody a job – or banishing them to the minors.
Sometimes pre-season games are low-stakes. For some of the guys involved wearing red tonight, the stakes may never be higher this season.