Playoff FGD: Meet the Jets, Game 1 (8:30pm MT, SN/CBC)

Friends, welcome back. After being idle for the better part of five months, the National Hockey League returns this evening with meaningful games in the form of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, a round feeding into the traditional Stanley Cup playoffs. The Calgary Flames will tangle with the Winnipeg Jets in a best-of-five series with the winner advancing and the losers going into the draft lottery.

The puck drops for Game 1 at 8:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet’s national feed and CBC (with Chris Cuthbert and Louie DeBrusk) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).

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The Flames

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Mangiapane – Backlund – Tkachuk
Lucic – Bennett – Dube
Rinaldo – Ryan – Rieder

Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Andersson
Forbort – Gustafsson

Flames interim coach Geoff Ward hasn’t announced a starting goaltender, as he’d like to force the Jets to prepare with some uncertainty. Per Ward: “We’ve narrowed it down to two, and it’s not Gillies or Zagidulin.” So, either Cam Talbot or David Rittich will start.

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Update: based on warm-ups, Cam Talbot will start.

The projected extras are Austin Czarnik, Byron Froese, Mark Jankowski, Alan Quine, Buddy Robinson, Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone, Juuso Valimaki, Alexander Yelesin, Jon Gillies and Artyom Zagidulin.

Based on the exhibition game against Edmonton – a 4-1 Flames loss – Calgary is parking Jankowski in the press box and moving Sam Bennett to center on the third line. Derek Ryan moves to the fourth line, which you can call the Pirate Line if they’re any good (three Rs = Arrrr, like a pirate).

This is the first NHL playoff game for Geoff Ward as an NHL head coach. He’s got 107 playoff games behind him as an assistant, and he noted during Friday’s chat with the media that he’s feeling calm and he’s right where he needs to be. “It’s just business as usual.”

The Flames are the home team for Games 1, 2 and 5 (if necessary) and have last change.

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The Jets

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Connor – Scheifele – Wheeler
Ehlers – Eakin – Laine
Copp – Lowry – Roslovic
Perreault – Shore – Appleton

Morrissey – DeMelo
Kulikov – Pionk
Beaulieu – Poolman

Connor Hellebuyck starts for the Jets, backed up by Laurent Brossoit. The projected extras are Gabriel Bourque, David Gustafsson, Jansen Harkins, Mark Letestu, Logan Shaw, Anthony Bitetto, Carl Dahlstrom, Sami Niku, Luca Sbisa, Mikhail Berdin and Eric Comrie. Nikolaj Ehlers left the third period of Winnipeg’s exhibition gamee as a precaution after a hit but last word was he was expected to play.

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The Jets looked good in their 4-1 exhibition win over Vancouver, with Hellebuyck looking busy and effective. Hellebuyck is the key to their success; if he’s on his game, the Flames might be in trouble.

The Numbers

(Regular season)

Flames Jets
Wins 36 37
Points 79 80
Adjusted Corsi 50.0% 48.1%
Power Play 21.2% 20.5%
Penalty Kill 82.1% 77.6%

Unfit to Play Report

The Flames are without D Travis Hamonic (opted out).

The Jets are without F Bryan Little (head).

When Last We Met

These teams met in the 2019 Heritage Classic, way, way back in late October in scenic Regina. The Jets won 2-1 in overtime.

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some key Twitter peeps to follow for tonight: