There are very few games on the calendar that are as hotly anticipated as opening night and this season's first outing is no exception. If anything, there is an even greater amount of hype surrounding the start of this year's campaign. After a disastrous 2013.14 season that resulted in an extensive housecleaning in the summer, there is a new sense of optimism and hope surrounding the team thanks to the influx of newcomers who will make their respective Canuck debuts tonight including Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino, Linden Vey as well as the new number one netminder in town, Ryan Miller. One relative newcomer who won't be debuting tonight, however, is Bo Horvat. The 19-year-old former first rounder, who at least for the time being has made the opening night roster, is nursing an upper-body injury sustained in the pre-season. Veteran blue-liner Kevin Bieksa will also be a game-time decision.
The Flames, like the Canucks, are looking forward to seeing what some of their new players can bring to the table starting tonight as they begin their journey to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.09. Among those new players are goaltender Jonas Hiller, defenceman Deryk Engelland and forward Mason Raymond, the latter formerly of the Canucks. The list of new players debuting won't include the fourth overall pick in this past summer's NHL Entry Draft, Sam Bennett, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury that is going to delay the start of his NHL career indefinitely. This is the first of four meetings between the Canucks and Flames this season. Vancouver swept its five-game season series against Calgary last season.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Keys to the Game
Be hungrier. Coach Desjardins wasn't hesitant to suggest his team lacked intensity at times during the pre-season, including in Saturday's finale. Motivation shouldn't be an issue tonight in the season opener but the same can be said of the Flames as well. The Canucks need to want the win more.
Spread the scoring. One of the bright spots last year for the Canucks was their season series against the Flames that saw them out-score Calgary 16-8 with 21 different players recording at least a point (Henrik Sedin led the way with four). That's one of the few things the Canucks would like to repeat from last season.
Hiller delivers. The Flames solidified their goaltending position this off-season by bringing in Jonas Hiller, formerly of the Ducks. Hiller has put up some pretty decent career numbers against the Canucks going 11-5-3 all-time with one of those wins coming last season. He'll try to do something no Flame netminder managed in 2013.14 – beat the Canucks.
By the Numbers
All-time win percentage for the Canucks in road openers (17-19-5).
All-time win percentage for the Canucks in regular season openers (21-17-5).
Official game for Willie Desjardins as an NHL head coach, the 18th head coach in Canucks history.
Ex-Canucks on the Flames roster: F Mason Raymond and D Raphael Diaz.
Losses in a row for the Canucks in season openers (0-3-2) – a streak that started with a 5-3 loss in Calgary in 2009.10.
Wins in a row for the Canucks over the Flames dating back to April 6, 2013.