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FGD 30: Under the bright lights (8pm MT, CBC)

When you really think about it, the Calgary Flames’ most significant rival in recent years might be the Vancouver Canucks. Dating back to the line brawl that defined Bob Hartley’s 2013-14 club and including that 2015 first round playoff series, these two teams just do not like each other. Tonight the Flames (15-12-2) face the Canucks (14-11-4) in a game that will break the standings tie between the two clubs in the Pacific Division, but also potentially teach us a bit about how the Flames have mentally adjusted to playing in big games against key rivals.

The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and CBC.

For a look from the other side, go visit our dear friends at Canucks Army.

The Flames

Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Brouwer (A) – Stajan – Lazar

Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone

Mike Smith starts for the Flames. He’s 12-9-1 with a 2.71 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Freddie Hamilton. Jaromir Jagr didn’t participate in morning skate and is out once again with a lower-body injury.

In their last six games, the Flames have played poorly against Toronto and Edmonton, and pretty well against Arizona, Philadelphia, Toronto and Montreal. The big criticism Flames coach Glen Gulutzan has had of his team is that they don’t manage their emotions well in big games. That’s not say that they’re jumpy or they come out flat, but that they’re nervous and jumpy. The Flames are playing a Saturday night game against arguably their biggest division rival – and a team that’s tied with them in the standings. They’re going to need to get over the mental hurdle of big games, especially if they plan on being a good playoff team.

The Canucks

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

D.Sedin (A) – H.Sedin (C) – Eriksson
Baertschi – Granlund – Boeser
Vanek – Dowd – Gagner
Gaunce – Chaput – Virtanen

Edler – Tanev
del Zotto (A) – Pouliot
Hutton – Stecher

Anders Nilsson (whoops!) starts for Vancouver. He’s 6-2-1 with a 2.68 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He’s backed up by Jacob Markstrom. The scratches are Alex Biega, Alexander Burmistrov and Nikolai Goldobin. Nic Dowd makes his Canucks debut after being acquired from Los Angeles earlier this week.

The Canucks lost 4-1 to Philadelphia on Thursday, but they’ve generally been a lot better than basically everyone expected them to be. They’re not great, and they’re really getting hammered by injuries and inconsistent play this season, but they seem to have found balance in their lineup and they’ve been getting solid goaltending and timely goals.

Are they the most impressive team in the league talent-wise? Nope. But they work hard every game and are generally a tough out. You can beat the Canucks – they lose half their games – but you’ll have to out-work them to do it.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) and Kris Versteeg (hip) are on the injured reserve. Jaromir Jagr (lower-body) is day-to-day.

Vancouver: Derek Dorsett (neck), Erik Gudbranson (upper-body), Brandon Sutter (undisclosed) and Bo Horvat (foot) are on the injured reserve.

When Last We Met

This is the third meeting between these teams this year. The Flames won their first meeting in Vancouver by a 5-2 score, then lost to the Canucks at home by a 5-3 score. After this, they play one more time next Sunday and their season series is over.

The Numbers

CGY VAN
Wins 15 14
Points 32 32
Adjusted Corsi 51.9% 48.7%
Power Play 20.2% 20.8%
Penalty Kill 76.6% 79.4%

Know Thy Enemy

These folks will be tweeting about the Canucks tonight. Try to be nice to them.

Sum It Up

It’s a big game for both teams, as both the Flames and Canucks could use some breathing room in the Pacific Division race. It’s early, but this is the type of game that we’ll probably look back on when the season is over as one that decided who made the post-season and who did not.

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

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  • The juice

    If the flames win they don’t deserve it tonight. It’s embarrassing how poorly they aren’t playing. I could count on one hand how many checks were finished.

    • cberg

      Lackadaisical effort, same as we’ve seen all season, same as we saw all pre-season. Not enough push from behind (coaches), and no butt-kicking (accountability) from within.

  • Just.Visiting

    Three/four PP without a single shot. The only one that seemed to have any jump was the one on which Janko played the second point, not that I agree with Brodie and Janko on the first unit.

    Being stubborn is not a virtue. The player selections, predictable setups, perimeter passing and failed carryins are getting really old really fast.

    My pulse went up when I saw that GG’s idea of an in game adjustment was to flip Ferland and Lazar for (fortunately) one shift!

    On the bright side, Janko looks like a player more each game, and is being more assertive out there than he had been previously.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Prime scoring chance Sedin line against the 4th line again… in the last 4 minutes… with last change on home ice. I will lose it if the 4th line sees another shift thus game. GG has no idea how to shorten his bench.

  • Skylardog

    The Flames have a paid staff, and access to PP stats. They work full time on stats and how the team plays.

    PP with JG, Mony and Brouwer, 3 goals for, 2 against in 36:48, GF/60 of 4.89.

    PP with JG, Mony, Ferly, 12 goals, 3 against in 56:01, GF/60 of 12.85. That’s 2.62 times more productive than when Brouwer is out.

    I have no way to separate Brouwer from Ferland. Since Steeg went down, the Ferland numbers have been dragged down by having Brouwer out on the PP. 2 of the 3 against with Ferly are with Brouwer out as well, if I remember correctly.

    If I can find this info, why can’t the coaching staff?

    • Mickey O.

      Hathaway was always pigeon-holed as a banger with not much offensive upside. But him and Jankowski had good chemistry in Stockton, and he scored a lot when he was on the farm. With Bennett going as well now, that’s a very good 3rd line.

  • flames2015

    Beauty win! As a flames fan living in vancity this is extra satisfing! Lookiny forward to being in the office on monday. That benett goalie was a beauty. Everytime Tckchuk scores on the canucks,it makes it extra sweet that they passed on him in the draft.

  • Joeyhere

    When Jagr comes back the roster requires someone must go down. Management is nuts if they send Hathaway back down, he fits so well with Bennett and Janko

  • Stajanforadirtyboot

    Glen better share some of his gel with Byng and Bennett. Those boys may have just extended his life behind the bench. Can you imagine this team with a real coach. We could have a contender. Subtract some 4th line dead weight, subtract General of the gel application, and replace with a real coach.

  • McRib

    Travis Hamonic and TJ Brodie have been miles better the last three games after an awful stretch. The past three games Travis Hamonic has likely played his best hockey as a Flame, I’ve been his biggest critic, but if he plays like this I’m fine with the trade (mostly because we will make the playoffs and don’t run the risk of winning he draft lottery, that pick should have been protected).

  • Stajanforadirtyboot

    Ok….how foes Stajan have the same rating as Ferland in NHL 2018. Perhaps I have been watching the wrong player. EA sports has opened my eyes.

  • BendingCorners

    So Brouwer scored, but he also passed the puck to the Vancouver forward who earned the primary assist on the first Canuck goal (scored by the forward abandoned by Stone at the side of the net) and then later released the forward on the zone entry who again earned the primary assist on the Vancouver PP goal (scored by a forward whom Stajan ignored completely whilst Brodie wandered the far-side wilderness).
    I don’t understand their PK alignment; defenders to the outside and staying there even when the play advances inward. It looks like a planned arrangement but shouldn’t the defenseman on the far side of the play move quickly to cover the net? That might in act have prevented the second Vancouver goal, in spite of Brouwer and Stajan focusing exclusively on the puck instead of the opposing players.
    Overall I think they played well but too many of them still only focus on the puck and not on the locations of the other players.
    Beautiful goal by Bennett after lots of hard work by Jankowski and Hathaway. Tkachuk turned nothing into something on his first goal, and to give full credit where it’s due, Brouwer and Lazar showed some jump on Brouwer’s goal. Not a bad effort from the 4th line in spite of the breakdowns.