Put on some coffee, gang, because we have some late night preseason hockey from the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The Calgary Flames face off with the Boston Bruins from Shenzhen, China as part of the 2018 ORG NHL China Games. It’s the first chance for some of the new faces to play with the Flames’ established players, and an opportunity for a few prospective Flames to make a good impression on new head coach Bill Peters.
The puck drops just after 12:30 a.m. on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Here were the projected lines based on practice:
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – James Neal
Michael Frolik – Derek Ryan – Austin Czarnik
Sam Bennett – Mark Jankowski – Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic
Brett Kulak – Michael Stone
Smith is expected to play the first two periods, with Gillies coming in for the third. The expected scratches are the fifth forward line of Anthony Peluso, Curtis Lazar and Morgan Klimchuk, the fourth defensive pairing of Dalton Prout and Rasmus Andersson, and third goalie Nick Schneider. There’s no morning skate prior to the game, so we’ll likely get official word a little bit prior to the game.
Monahan won’t be taking many draws this preseason as he’s recovering from off-season wrist surgery – one of four surgeries he had during the summer – so Lindholm will functionally be the right winger but will take faceoffs for that line. The second line features two of the NHL’s biggest pains in the backside in Neal and Tkachuk straddling one of the league’s best two-way players in Backlund.
Tonight’s action is the first opportunity to see Lindholm (#28), Neal (#18), Ryan (#10), Czarnik (#27) and Hanifin (#55) in Flames sweaters. It’s also the unofficial debut behind the bench for Peters, associate coach Geoff Ward and assistant coach Ryan Huska.
Here are the projected Bruins lines:
Brad Marchand – Jack Studnicka – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – Ryan Donato
Peter Cehlarik – Trent Frederic – David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom – Chris Wagner – Martin Bakos
John Moore – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzlecyk – Kevan Miller
Jakub Zboril – Brandon Carlo
The expectation is Rask will go the distance, with Halak getting all of Wednesday’s game in Beijing. The expected scratches are Colby Cave, Jordan Szwarz and Urho Vaakanainen.
The Bruins left many of their big guns at home – notably Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug – but they’re still icing a fairly young, talented group of players. It’ll be very interesting to see how the Flames content with their speed, particularly among their forward group.
Things to Watch
Peters’ style in Carolina really emphasized structured zone exits and transitions into the neutral zone, so keep an eye out for how the Flames are adapting to that systemic change after one practice.
The Flames’ Achilles’ heel last season was their woeful power play, so it’ll be interesting to see how Ward structures the two PP units and how he adapts things to maximize the group. Expect the 1-3-1 approach to continue, but don’t be shocked if he flips players from side to side depending on how the Bruins’ penalty kill is lined up.