For the first time in 18 months, the Calgary Flames will play in front of actual paying fans tonight when they welcome the Edmonton Oilers to the Saddledome. It’s the first normal-ish hockey game, or event of any kind, in the building in forever, and the first baby step in what could be a really important season for the franchise.
The puck drops just after 7 p.m. MT, and you can catch the action on Sportsnet 960 The Fan! There is no television broadcast of tonight’s game, but the Flames are streaming it on their site (in the broadcast region).
Projected lines for tonight, via our pal Pat Steinberg:
Dillon Dube – Mikael Backlund – Tyler Pitlick
Milan Lucic – Brad Richardson – Trevor Lewis
Jakob Pelletier – Glenn Gawdin – Matthew Phillips
Martin Pospisil – Adam Ruzicka – Brett Ritchie
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Andersson
Juuso Valimaki – Erik Gudbranson
Connor Mackey – Andy Welinski
Dan Vladar starts in net, backed up by Adam Werner.
The line-up features two NHL forward lines and two pretty good-sounding AHL lines, along with two NHL pairings and an AHL pairing that also sounds quite decent. In net, it’s the organization’s number two and three goaltenders.
If you want to feel good about the club’s depth this season, a good performance tonight against Edmonton would be a good starting point.
Projected lines via Reid Wilkins:
Brandon Perlini – Devin Shore – Kyle Turris
Tyler Benson – Ryan McLeod – Cooper Marody
Colton Sceviour – Derek Ryan – Xavier Bourgault
James Hamblin – Adam Cracknell – Raphael Lavoie
Slater Koekkoek – Evan Bouchard
Philip Broberg – Filip Berglund
William Lagesson – Philip Kemp
Stuart Skinner and Ilya Konovalov are the goaltenders headed to Calgary, but we’re not sure how they’ll divide up the game. (It seems like Skinner will start, though.)
Welcome back to Calgary, Derek Ryan, and also a stick-tap to Adam Cracknell, who was drafted by then-Flames general manager Darryl Sutter way, way back in 2004 and is still hanging around pro hockey. Cracknell is a fantastic success story for guys willing to grind and find a niche on every team he’s found himself on.
Players to watch
For the Flames, keep an eye on Dillon Dube and Jakob Pelletier. Both are former World Junior stalwarts. Dube has a sweet new beard that makes him look like Roy Kent (of Ted Lasso fame) and was the fittest player in camp testing. Pelletier is coming off a superb junior career and may be the rookie with the best chance to crack the roster and make an impact. Standing out against Edmonton would be an important first step in that mission.
For the Oil, it’s the youngsters that deserve your attention: Xavier Bourgault and Raphael Lavoie. Both are QMJHL products and excellent offensively, but how will they look against a Flames group that’ll be trying to play a Suttery style of hockey and slow things down with grinding defensive play? If these kids are gonna make the next big jump soon, they’ll need to find ways to adapt in games that get dragged down into the proverbial muck.