The No. 1 goalie for the Calgary Flames is still sidelined. The No. 2 highest paid forward will miss a second consecutive game. The No. 3, and sometimes No. 2 centreman, who has three goals, is out four-to-six weeks.
Yet the man piloting the Flames, coach Bob Hartley, through this three-game trip is breathing confidence his squad can end the journey with a perfect 3-0 record by knocking off the Northwest Division No. 1 team and one of the National Hockey League’s hottest, Vancouver Canucks.
The rivals clash Saturday night after both teams took long flights after their road victories on Thursday. The Canucks flew four-hours from Minnesota after capturing their fourth straight game. The Flames were in the air five-and-a-half hours after downing Columbus for their second consecutive win.
The Canucks had the day off from practice on Friday. The Flames held a one-hour workout at Rogers Arena but were without goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, winger Mike Cammalleri and centre Mikael Backlund. All three are down with injuries. Kiprusoff and Cammalleri will miss for the second straight games with knee and hip injuries with the Flames hoping they’ll be back next week. Backlund’s knee ailment is more severe. He could miss as many as 20 games.
Ben Street, who grew up in the Vancouver area, will play his first NHL game. The centre was called up from nearby AHL Abbotsford and in Friday’s practice skated on the No. 2 line with Czech wingers Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka.
Leland Irving, who was Street’s teammate with the Heat during the NHL Lockout, starts his second straight game seeking his third NHL win against the team he got his first one against. On Dec. 23, 2011, Irving played in Vancouver and made 29 saves in a 3-1 victory.
The Flames fly home after Saturday’s tilt. By the time they get home in the early morning hours of Sunday they will have spent 12 hours in the air going to and from games. On the ice, if they defeat the Canucks, they’ll have gone from being the last place team in the West to a game above .500 and on the cusp of a playoff spot over the week-long venture.