Let’s be honest with each other, friends: nobody likes the preseason. Coaches don’t like it. Players don’t like it. Fans don’t like it. The media doesn’t like it. It is something to be endured, not enjoyed. Coaches and players pray nobody gets hurt. Fans and media alike over-analyze every part of it, just begging for meaningful hockey to finally begin.
Meaningful hockey begins on Wednesday in Edmonton, as the 38th season of Calgary Flames hockey begins with an installment of the Battle of Alberta. It’ll be high tempo and high stakes. Before then? The Flames have a game tonight with the Winnipeg Jets and then four cuts to make. After five relatively sleepy and sloppy games of hockey (of the six they’ve played in the preseason), I’m sure Flames management would love a good final effort and some tough decisions.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 960 The Fan. The game is apparently available on the TSN GO app, but I’m sure there are blackouts or such things involved.
The locals have four cuts to make to get their roster down to the 23-man limit for Tuesday afternoon.
Projected lines (via Pat Steinberg):
Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Versteeg – Bennett – Brouwer
Glass – Jankowski – Lazar
Giordano – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Bartkowski – Stone
(Per Pat, Glen Gulutzan mentioned there may be one change on defense; I would guess one of the third pairing slides out for Brett Kulak.)
Mike Smith starts again. He was not particularly good against Vancouver on Thursday and really hasn’t been amazing in his outings thus far. Considering the games start counting on Wednesday, that’s something that needs to change. Gaudreau and Jankowski tied for team lead in scoring chances through the preseason thus far, which might explain why #77 is penciled into the opening night roster.
It’s the final game for the Jets in the exhibition slate. Unlike the Flames, they’ve had a pretty good few weeks; their power play is clicking and some of their youngsters are pushing hard for jobs. Winnipeg has 19 forwards, eight blueliners and two goalies in camp; they have to trim down by a defender and five forwards before the season starts.
Lines courtesy of our pals at JetsNation:
Petan – Scheifele – Connor
Ehlers – Little – Laine
Dano – Copp – Lipon
Tanev – Armia – Matthias
Morrissey – Trouba
Poolman – Myers
Enstrom – Kulikov
Steve Mason starts. Matt Hendricks and Adam Lowry are dealing with some bumps and bruises.
The Jets have out-Corsied and out-chanced their opponents in five of six preseason games. (The Flames? They’ve done that in three of six.) They have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Their secret? It appears to be a balanced attack, and the fact that Patrik Laine can change the complexion of a game with a single shift.
The Flames lost to Winnipeg last week. Aside from a pretty good effort from Mark Jankowski, the game wasn’t very good and the Flames were TERRIFIED of Laine whenever he had the puck.
Sum It Up
If the Flames lose, it’s probably not time to panic. If they look awful despite their NHL roster full of big-league experience, it’s probably time to be a bit concerned.