After a somewhat lacklustre start to the preseason, the Calgary Flames will go in search of their first preseason win yet again this evening. Coming off a 5-3 loss to Vancouver on Wednesday night, the Flames still have plenty of questions to answer as they play host to the Arizona Coyotes tonight in their fourth exhibition test (7 pm, Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 0-3-0 (preseason record)
While it’s only the preseason, tonight is still a big night for Calgary’s starting goaltender. Mike Smith will get the start in net and will take on his former team for the first time, albeit with much less on the line. Smith spent six seasons with the Coyotes and had his best success while playing there before being dealt to the Flames in the offseason. Tonight will mark Smith’s second start of the preseason after he gave up four goals on 13 shots against the Oilers in his debut Monday night. David Rittich will serve as Smith’s backup this evening, but it’ll be Smith going the full way.
Head coach Glen Gulutzan and the rest of his staff were not happy with Calgary’s performance against the Canucks two nights ago. Against a Vancouver team missing almost all of their established NHLers, the Flames mustered very little over 60 minutes and were clearly outworked all night long. While no one should be panicking about a winless start to the preseason, the coaching staff is also looking for more urgency from the team tonight, which is a fair request after Wednesday.
Calgary is certainly giving a pair of prospect hopefuls a chance so far in the preseason. Both Jankowski and Andersson will play in their third contest this fall, the only players to suit up for every possible opportunity thus far. Jankowski has impressed more often than not and has goals in each of his first two games, but he’ll need to keep playing well to separate himself in the end. Andersson, on the other hand, was part of the team’s most effective pairing on Wednesday night alongside Oliver Kylington, while he also played almost 21 minutes in his first outing Monday in Edmonton.
The rest of the Flames’ blueline will look pretty much NHL ready. The top two pairings are what we expect things to look like on opening day, with all four players getting into their second preseason games this year. Michael Stone, the other locked-in member of the team’s opening day blueline, played against Vancouver so won’t play tonight. That leaves Andersson and Wotherspoon as the two players in the lineup tonight still very much in the mix to earn a spot on the day one roster.
Arizona Coyotes 1-0-0 (preseason record)
The Coyotes find themselves behind the eight ball a little bit when it comes to their exhibition schedule. Arizona was forced to cancel their first preseason game schedule for Monday night due to poor ice conditions following a concert at the Gila River Arena in Glendale. Because the game won’t be made up, head coach Rick Tocchet and the Coyotes are going to have to make the most of the five remaining games they have, starting tonight in Calgary.
Arizona opened their preseason Wednesday with a 5-1 win on the road in Anaheim. 2016 first round pick Clayton Keller led the way against the Ducks with two goals and three points, but we won’t see him in action tonight. We will see Fischer, however, who also scored twice and added an assist in Anaheim; he’s another of a solid bunch of young, promising prospects accrued by the Coyotes in recent years hoping to make an impact this year. In his first crack at pro hockey, Fischer had 20 goals and 47 points in 57 games with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners last season; he also added three goals in seven NHl games with Arizona.
Louis Domingue is set to get the start in net for the Coyotes tonight, but there’s a cool story set to play, too. Adin Hill is likely to play the third period for Arizona in his hometown and where he started his junior career. Hill played one season with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks before jumping to Portland of the WHL for two seasons; he was taken by the Coyotes in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Last season in Tucson, Hill went 16-14-0 with a 3.16 goals against average and a 0.906 save percentage.