Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gameday - Flames at Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks take on the Calgary Flames tonight in the first game of a home and home series. It's only November, but it's hard not to call these "big games". Two wins by Vancouver and they can put Calgary nine points back, on the other hand two wins by Calgary and the Flames can get within one point of the Canucks.

The Flames are coming off a 6-2 rout of the Los Angelos Kings, following their trend of beating the lesser teams in the NHL. Unfortunately for Calgary, the Flames have had a lot of trouble beating the better teams in the NHL. They will hope to change that tonight.

Who's in Who's Out?

Courtesy of Tom Larschied on the Team 1040:

  • Kevin Bieksa will be back in the lineup, returning from his fractured foot. That means the Canucks will have their regular top 6 defensemen and regular pairings.
  • Steve Bernier will not play tonight, but is expected to practice tomorrow so he may be back for Saturday's tilt.
  • With Bernier out Mayson Raymond will get a chance to return to the 2nd line with Kyle Wellwood and Taylor Pyatt.
  • Mike Brown will get back in the lineup on the 4th line. It's about time he shows he can do something other than drop the gloves. Quite frankly, Brown hasn't contributed a thing and has often been a liability.
  • Alexander Bolduc will make his NHL debut replacing the injured Ryan Johnson. Bolduc has some pretty big shoes to fill as Johnson has been excellent on the penalty kill.

Keys to the Game

Miikka Kiprusoff has struggled at times this season while the Canucks will be going with Curtis Sanford again. Sanford has played very well, although I don't think he has been as good as many seem to think. He's allowed a weak goal in every game and has often looked awkward, particularly on the short side and while guarding the posts. The good news is that he has shut the door when he's had to. Kiprusoff comes into the game sporting an ugly 3.15 GAA and .893 Sv %. Can Sanford continue to shut the door or will the Flames exploit his small stature? Which Kiprusoff shows up tonight? Those two questions will likely decide the game.
The Flames Defense
The Canucks will want to exploit the foot speed of the Calgary defense. The Canucks need to get the puck deep and turn the defensemen around. Guys like Raymond, Kesler, Burrows and Hansen could have big games.
Special Teams and Discipline
This will be another physical game between these two division rivals. Whoever stays away from the bad penalties will have a very good chance of taking this game. The Canucks will need to find a way to replace the loss of Johnson on the PK and contain Dion Phaneuf's shot from the point (particularly with the smaller Sanford in net).

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