The holiday season is almost upon us and soon the 30 National Hockey League member clubs and their many fans will be snuggled by a roaring fire – or whatever they have in the sunbelt – to enjoy a brief reprieve from the torrid schedule. But before we can all relax, there’s one final game for the Calgary Flames to play… and it’s a doozy, as the Vancouver Canucks come to town for what should be a spirited tilt.
The puck drops just after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan! If you’re heading down, the Flames and Calgary CO-OP are collecting non-perishable food items.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Brian Elliott gets back into the net after winning against Arizona in his last outing – aside from the two iffy goals, he was rock solid. He’s 4-9-1 with a 3.21 goals against average and .889 save percentage. He gets the nod over Chad Johnson, who’s allowed four goals in each of his last three starts. The Flames goalies have struggled against teams with big-bodied forwards, but the Canucks aren’t one of those teams and it should be a nice opportunity for Elliott to get some game time in to recapture his mojo.
The healthy scratches look to be Freddie Hamilton, Jyrki Jokipakka and Lance Bouma. Glen Gulutzan has been hesitant to blow up his forward lines, and that probably stems from the success the team had in terms of consistently defending other teams over the past month. That’s not to say that it’s the right move, and tinkering probably should happen to every line that doesn’t include Tkachuk, Backlund and Frolik, but I understand the mindset behind not mucking around with things too much.
Scoring streaks for Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and the power play were ended against San Jose. The hope is that last game was just a blip and that the team can rekindle their magic just in time for the holiday season.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Vancouver played at home last night against Winnipeg (losing 4-1) and didn’t have a morning skate, so we’re operating on guesswork primarily. Ryan Miller started, so presumably Jacob Markstrom gets the nod tonight. He’s 7-7-2 with a 2.63 goals against average and .908 save percentage. Anton Rodin, Andrey Pedan and Brendan Gaunce were the extra bodies last night. Presumably at least one of them slots in tonight, so Rodin could make his NHL debut.
It’s the return to Calgary of Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi, two 2011 picks that were shipped out of town for Hunter Shinkaruk (who’s in the AHL right now) and a 2015 draft pick (used on Rasmus Andersson, who’s also in the AHL right now). For the curious, Baertschi has 17 points and Granlund has 14 points.
Update: No Hansen tonight. Lines from warm-up are posted up top.
This is the 266th regular season meeting between these two clubs. The Flames have a 129-89-47 all-time record against the Canucks. This is the second of five games between these teams this season. Vancouver beat Calgary 2-1 back in October in a game where the Flames scored zero goals – the Canucks scored on their own net on a delayed penalty.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Your recommended follows from the other side for tonight:
The Flames are ninth in the Western Conference in points percentage, trailing behind Nashville for what is functionally the final wild-card spot. A win bumps Calgary to .527 and closes the gap with the Predators, a loss drops them to .500.
SUM IT UP
The Flames polish off their pre-Christmas schedule with a game against a historical rival. They should be emotionally invested, which should counter the typical “last game before the holidays” malaise. That’s good news, because they could really use the two points to stay with the pack in the playoff chase.