Here's how the Calgary Flames' lineup could look tonight against the Vancouver Canucks:
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Rene Bourque - Roman Horak - Paul Byron
Tim Jackman - Brendan Morrison - Tom Kostopoulos
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Derek Smith - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich
Leland Irving is expected to make just his second career NHL start while Miikka Kiprusoff gets a rare night off after playing three games in the last five days. Irving wasn't talking to reporters, another sign of his preparation to play.
The Flames held a sparsely attended, coach-free morning skate in Vancouver after a 3-2 win in Detroit the night before, so roster adjustments are somewhat uncertain, including the status of Alex Tanguay, who was a surprise scratch against the Red Wings.
There's no question, though, that they'll find a spot for Rene Bourque, who returns from a two-game suspension for his hit on Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook during a game Sunday.
Bourque, who could return on the third line despite being tied for second on the team with 11 goals this season, is trying not to change anything about his game.
"A little early vacation, but I'm ready," Bourque said. "It's only been a few games, so I am not really worried about losing a step. … I've moved on from it. Obviously it wasn't the cleanest hit, and I still feel bad about it, but what can I do now? I've just got to make sure it doesn't happen again and worry about getting myself ready to play tonight."
Especially against a Canucks team that has won five straight against Calgary, including two straight by 5-1 scores, and is 10-0-2 in the last 12 against the Flames.
"We have to believe before the puck drops we have a chance to win and we've just got to compete," Bourque said. "Everybody has to play with an edge and with emotion."
That shouldn't be a problem for Irving, who was drafted by the Flames with the 26th pick in Vancouver in 2006, and has played the last three seasons for their AHL affiliate down the road in suburban Abbotsford. Even his call-up is because regular backup Henrik Karlsson sprained his knee in a game in Vancouver Dec. 4. No wonder some teammates thought it was a homecoming for their 23-year-old rookie despite being born in Alberta.
"I'm sure he's pretty excited to be playing in his home province, and I think everyone knows how big the game is for him," forward Blake Comeau said of Irving, who played well before losing his first NHL start 3-2 in a shootout in Florida a week earlier.
"He never gives up on pucks," Bourque said. "He made a lot of big saves against Florida off second and third chances. He's really well-positioned in net and he's a competitor, he never gives up and plays hard in practice, and we have confidence in him."