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What will the Calgary Flames’ lines look like on opening night?

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
The Calgary Flames begin their 2023-24 season on Wednesday evening when they host the Winnipeg Jets. In advance of puck drop, we thought we’d examine the various lines, pairings and special teams units the Flames will likely use to start the season – based on reports from the practice rink and player usage during exhibition games.
(Stick taps to our pal Pat Steinberg from Sportsnet for always tweeting lines. #ThanksPat. Stats cited here, unless otherwise noted, are from Natural Stat Trick.)

Forward Lines

Jonathan Huberdeau – Elias Lindholm – Dillon Dube
Yegor Sharangovich – Nazem Kadri – Matt Coronato
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman
A.J. Greer – Adam Ruzicka – Walker Duehr
Lindhom and Dube played 407:45 together at five-on-five last season, out-playing their opponents slightly (51.46% xGF) and ending up even (23 GF/23 GA). Huberdeau and Lindholm played 199:03 together and out-played their opponents handily (58.08% xGF) but were out-scored 6-5.
Kadri has never played a regular season game with Sharangovich. He played a single game with Coronato.
Mangiapane, Backlund and Coleman spent 400:55 together last season, wildly out-playing their opponents (67.11% xGF) and out-scoring their opponents 21-8. They were one of the most effective trios in the NHL by any measure.
Duehr and Ruzicka spent 42:31 together last season. They out-played their opponents (60.21% xGF) and were even (2 GF/2GA). Greer is brand-new to the team.

Defensive Pairings

Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
Nikita Zadorov – MacKenzie Weegar
Jordan Oesterle – Chris Tanev
Hanifin and Andersson played 973:22 together at five-on-five in 2022-23. They slightly out-played their opponents (53.11% xGF) and slightly out-scored them (45-42).
Zadorov and Weegar played 452:45 together last season. They significantly out-played their opponents (58.18% xGF) and out-scored them 20-14.
Oesterle and Tanev haven’t played together in the regular season, but they played together for a few games in the pre-season. (Pre-season possession stats aren’t really meaningful.)

Goaltenders

Jacob Markstrom
Daniel Vladar
Markstrom enters the season as the incumbent starter.

Power Play Units

First Unit: Andersson, Huberdeau, Kadri, Lindholm, Coronato
Second Unit: Hanifin/Weegar, Dube, Backlund, Ruzicka, Mangiapane
The Flames tend to work a 1-3-1 system, with one blueliner at the top of the zone, one net-front forward working around the blue paint, and three forwards set up across the middle to facilitate puck movement.

Penalty Kill Units

The Flames tend to work with forward pairs and defensive pairs mixing and matching on the penalty kill.
The forward pairs have tended to be (during pre-season) Lindholm/Backlund, Coleman/Sharangovich and Mangiapane/Dube. The defensive pairings have tended to be Oesterle/Tanev and Hanifin/Andersson. Typically the opening four-man unit is Lindholm/Backlund/Oesterle/Tanev, then players rotate through.
This rotation scheme is usually followed, after a successful kill, with a “bump-up” shift from a unit usually comprised of Huberdeau, Lindholm, Kadri, Zadorov and Weegar. This consistent group is a bit of a new wrinkle introduced by the coaching staff this season.
Which line, pairing or special teams unit do you find the most fascinating heading into the regular season? Let us know in the comments!
Get your tickets for the FlamesNation Season Home Opener party, and come hang out with us at Greta Bar while we watch the Flames take on the Winnipeg Jets in their season opener!

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