Arguably the most rigorous portion of the pre-season schedule will be polished off tonight in Vancouver, as the Calgary Flames complete a stretch of three exhibition games in three nights (in three cities) when they face off against the Vancouver Canucks for the second time in two days.
The Flames dressed a mostly-NHL roster last night and beat the Utica Comets, er, Vancouver’s third and fourth lines and a bunch of good AHL kids by a 4-1 score. Tonight, the shoe’s on the other foot as the Flames send their Not Ready For Primetime Players to the lower mainland to face the NHL roster of the Canucks.
Catch it all on Sportsnet West (with Vancouver’s broadcast team) or on Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias) starting at 8pm MT.
Lines for tonight, per Derek Wills:
Bollig – Stajan – Jones
Raymond – Colborne – Poirier
Jooris – Granlund – Hathaway
Klimchuk – Elson – Riley
Wilson – Andersson
Kylington – Kulak
Wotherspoon – Morrison
(Karri Ramo probably goes the full 60 minutes.)
Big test tonight, especially for Calgary’s young defensive group. Can Ryan Wilson look like an NHL defender on a blueline full of AHLers? Can Brandon Bollig look like an NHL regular with Stajan and Jones? Considering that the entire second line is fighting for NHL jobs, who stands out there? Can Garnet Hathaway continue his impressive play?
And with nary an NHL top-flight player to be seen, do the veterans take charge offensive (or defensively) like you’d hope they would? Or will Karri Ramo need to stand on his head in order to capture a win tonight? With more cuts likely coming on Monday as AHL camp opens, it’s a big game for quite a few fringe players.
After losing with a rather thin group last night, Vancouver has made some cuts and will be suiting up with a much more veteran-laden group tonight.
D.Sedin – H.Sedin – Grenier
Jensen – Cassels – Burrows
Hansen – Horvat – Vrbata
Friesen – McCann – Cracknell
Hamhuis – Tanev
Edler – Corrado
Biega – Hutton
Ryan Miller is expected to start and go the distance tonight.
The good news? It’s only two-thirds of the Canucks projected opening-night line-up, but the bad news is it’s a lot better than last night’s crew. The Sedins are celebrating their 35th birthdays and will probably be as motivated as veterans ever are for a pre-season game.
If you’re in town and want to catch a game, Pavel Karnaukhov and the Calgary Hitmen kick off the home portion of their season tonight at 7pm when they host the Kootenay Ice. The Hitmen look to be a pretty decent team this season, even if Jake Virtanen stays with the Canucks, and they boast projected 2016 first round pick Jake Bean on the blueline – along with a bunch of players in Layne Bensmiller, Beck Malenstyn and Jordy Stallard that should factor into the draft, too.
And if you just wanna stay home and watch junior hockey, newly-signed Flames prospect Nick Schneider and the Medicine Hat Tigers host the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Shaw TV starting at 7:30pm.
SUM IT UP
It’s a big, big test for the bubble players on the Calgary Flames tonight. For those that want to stave off a trip to Stockton, or are worried about possibly falling onto the waiver wire on Sunday, a big performance tonight could change some minds in Flames management.