So it’s come down to this: the final two pre-season contests will determine quite a few things.
There are three goalies fighting over two jobs. There are two spots up for grabs on the blueline – at least until T.J. Brodie and Ladislav Smid get healthy. And there are 14 roster spots available for forwards, with 18 players duking it out.
The Flames will be sending NHL-caliber players away – whether it be to Stockton or the waiver wire (or maybe even traded elsewhere). We begin figuring out which players are staying and going tonight when the Flames visit the Winnipeg Jets. The game gets going at 6pm MT, televised on TSN3 and on the radio on Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Last season, pre-season games on TSN3 were not blacked out, but I’m not sure what’s happening tonight – so beware.
UPDATE: Probably blacked out.
UPDATE 2: You can watch TSN3’s feed on the Centre Ice channels. It’s 351 on Shaw. No idea what it is on Telus. Check your local listings.
Not on the trip to Winnipeg from the local hockey heroes: Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Michael Frolik. Basically, the Flames are resting the “for-sure” players and giving the fringe bodies another chance to make an impression.
Lines for tonight, via our pal Derek Wills:
Colborne – Bennett – Ferland
Raymond – Backlund – Jones
Bouma – Granlund – Jooris
Bollig – Shore – Hathaway
Nakladal – Engelland
Wotherspoon – Kulak
Wilson – Sieloff
Ortio is starting and expected to play the full 60 minutes, though plans may change. He has given up one goal in roughly 90 minutes of play thus far. Tonight, it’s another game for him behind an AHL-level defense.
Speaking of the defense, expect some rotation of bodies through the left-side of Engelland. Wilson struggled at times with the pace in the Colorado game, so he needs a good performance tonight to stick with the pack. Keep a particularly keen eye on how Kulak and Wotherspoon perform, as both could sneak onto the October 7 roster with strong showings.
Up-front: here is the ball, Joe Colborne and Mason Raymond. Please do something with it. They absolutely need to deliver on some level tonight to stick around, especially given the line-mates they’re being gifted with tonight. The bottom-six is very similar to Colorado, albeit with a couple new bodies in the form of Bouma and Bollig. I think Hathaway is a long-shot to make it, but he’s bringing enough intensity to stick around for a little while longer.
The Jets are basically down to their NHL roster with a handful of extra bodies, which should provide a nice test to the prospective Flames tonight.
Lines for tonight via the Jets official site:
Ladd – Little – Petan
Raffl – Scheifele – Ehlers
Burmistrov – Lowry – Stafford
Lipon – Copp – Peluso
Chiarot – Byfuglien
Pardy – Myers
Harrison – Trouba
Keep an eye on Nik Ehlers (who was superb in junior), Thomas Raffl (a veteran on a try-out) and the excellent Jacob Trouba.
Down in California, the Stockton Heat play their first pre-season game tonight in the Bay Area when they visit the San Jose Barracuda. Puck drop is at 8:30pm MT.
SUM IT UP
There are NHL jobs on the line, as well as a handful of NHL regulars that should be in desperation mode considering the glut of AHL kids pushing for jobs. I’d hope to see some desperation and intensity on the ice tonight from the majority of the Flames roster. Anybody who stands out through an absence of either quality might find themselves headed out of town in short order.
Meaningful games begin in six days.