For the final time this season, the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks will tangle when they meet for the fifth time tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome (7:30 pm, Sportsnet 960 and Sportsnet Flames). The Flames will look to be a thorn in the side of their division rival as the Canucks look to lock down another Northwest Division crown. Calgary has played the Canucks tough all year long, and will look to do so once again; the Flames won the only other game at the Saddledome this year back on March 3rd by a 4-2 score.
Calgary is coming off a three game road trip where they won just one of their games, but played some pretty solid hockey nonetheless. The Flames now play five of their next six games at the Scotiabank Saddledome as they finish off their home schedule for this season. The hope is to give their fans something to cheer about, as their last home game was an 8-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Heading into tonight, Calgary’s elimination number is 5.
There’s another new face in the Flames lineup tonight, as Jones will get back into NHL game action for the first time since February 15th. The team assigned him to Abbotsford on February 21st and he’s been with the Heat ever since. In 18 games at the American League level, Jones put up three goals and six points, but offence isn’t the main thing a team is looking from Jones. He’s a centre that can be deployed in tough defensive situations, and that’s likely what you’ll see from him this evening.
Jones is an emergency recall as the Flames are battling the injury bug down the stretch. The latest player to go down is Matt Stajan, who suffered an upper body injury Monday in Colorado. Stajan won’t play tonight and there’s no word how long he’ll be out of the Calgary lineup. Stajan joins Jiri Hudler (upper body), Brian McGrattan (shoulder), and Derek Smith (knee) on the shelf. Baertschi is also an emergency recall, so the Flames remain at three of their four recalls allowed after the Trade Deadline.
After Joey MacDonald made 39 saves in Denver, it’ll be Miikka Kiprusoff getting the start in net tonight for the Flames. Kiprusoff struggled a little against the Canucks on Saturday, his last start. The start before that was a stellar one, as Kiprusoff made 39 saves in a losing effort against the San Jose Sharks on Friday. In the final ten games of the season, you’ll probably see a good dose of both goaltenders for Calgary.
The Canucks are rolling right now as they enter this evening looking for a fourth consecutive victory. They’re back on top of the Northwest Division thanks to a stretch of nine wins in 11 games, and they welcomed an important member back to their lineup on Monday night. Kesler returned against the Phoenix Coyotes and scored the winning goal after missing 19 games with a foot injury. His return gives the Canucks a pretty good three way punch down the middle, starting with Henrik Sedin who will play his 621st consecutive game tonight. He’s currently second on the active list when it comes to consecutive games played.
Just when it seemed like the Canucks were getting healthy, they’ve lost two more pieces to their lineup. Forward Chris Higgins and defenseman Chris Tanev are both out for the time being with lower body injuries. It sounds like Tanev’s injury is a little more long term than Higgins’s, while David Booth remains out long term with a high ankle sprain.
Cory Schneider gets the start in net for Vancouver, his 12th straight.