In the second game of a four-game road trip, the Vancouver Canucks will visit the Saddledome to play the Calgary Flames in their first meeting of the season — a radical contrast in comparison to the all-Canadian North Division showdown, which saw these two teams faceoff on ten occasions over the span of 56 games.
In the first of four games, the Canucks will look to right their wrongs and get off to an early 1-0 series lead against the Flames who won all but three of their matchups last year.
Expect fire from the jump: in their last ten matchups, the average number of goals scored per game is 6.1.
Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko will look to extinguish the offensive spree of the Flames, who have scored 14 goals in their last three games, with his return to the crease after rejoining the group from COVID-19 protocol.
Demko has a 3-3-1 record in seven starts against Calgary, with a 2.91 GAA and a .898 SV%. Brendan Batchelor of Sportsnet 650 confirmed Jaroslav Halak will be backing up tonight.
Joining Demko in his return to play is captain Bo Horvat, who was able to practice in the Seattle Thunderbirds facility in the meantime. Horvat has recorded 18 points (nine goals and nine assists) against the Flames in 33 games. He had three points in his last two games before being sidetracked.
The Canucks will be without defenceman Tucker Poolman who left the first period of a 5-1 win against the Jets on Thursday. Defenseman Noah Juulsen was called up from the taxi squad from Abbotsford in response.
In between the opposition’s pipes is a familiar foe, and former goalie partner of Demko, Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom is 7-2-0 in nine games against his former team with a 2.38 GAA and a .925 SV%.
In other news, Canucks forward Nils Höglander will suit up for his 100th NHL game. Höglander has 42 points (21 goals and 21 assists) through his first 99 games. While the Canucks best defensive forward, Juho Lammikko celebrates his 26th birthday in Alberta.
Here is how the Flames will lineup tonight per Salim Nadim Valji of TSN.
Here is how the Canucks will match courtesy of Canucks Army.
Keys of the Game
A quick start is pivotal for the Canucks (19-19-5) coming in against the Flames (20-13-6), who suffered a 5-1 defeat against the Blues. The Canucks need to limit offensive zone time for the Flames who have the second-highest shots per game with 36.
The Flames haven’t had many powerplay chances, coming into tonight’s matchup with 115 chances in comparison to the Canucks 139. But their powerplay still has the edge over the Canucks, who went a perfect 2/2 against the Jets.
Vancouver’s penalty kill, which has seen tremendous growth over the last couple of games, will need to be the difference-maker. The Canucks penalty unit, which killed off all three penalties last game, will need to outwork the Flames whose penalty kill ranks sixth in the NHL.
However, the biggest narrative of tonight might just be the goaltender matchup between Demko and Markström. Both goalies have been rocks on the backend for their respective teams and sport similar statistics of less than three goals a game with a save percentage over .915.
Players to Watch
For the Canucks it’s the man with the flurry of trade rumours: J.T. Miller. Miller scored a hat-trick against the Jets and has five points (three goals and two assists) in his last two games after coming off COVID-19 Protocol.
Miller has 17 points (four goals and 13 assists) in 22 games against Calgary.
For the Flames, it’s Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau has 38 points in 37 games against Vancouver.He will become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Puck drop is at 7:00 PM. You can catch the game on Sportsnet Pacific or listen to it on Sportsnet 650.