After weeks spent at training camp, the regular season is finally here and the Calgary Flames face off against their two biggest rivals to open up their 2009-10 season.
The Flames kick off the regular season Thursday night at home against divisional foes, the Vancouver Canucks. They then trek to Edmonton Saturday for the first match in the Battle of Alberta.
The Flames suffered a shootout loss to the Canucks to end their preseason on Saturday. With the majority of core players on the ice, the Flames performance was decent, if slightly tentative. Players attributed the hesitancy to familiarizing themselves with the new coaching method and all the new bodies on the roster.
"We still look a little hesitant," said Craig Conroy.
"We’re trying to make sure we know where everybody is. Soon, it’ll flow. That’s what we’re trying to do."
David Moss, the Flames lone goal scorer on Saturday, echoed those thoughts.
"We’re ready," he stated.
"We’re certainly in great shape. Come Thursday, hopefully, we’ll be clicking."
Thursday, Oct. 1, Flames vs. Canucks at the Pengrowth Saddledome, 8:00 p.m. MST, CBC & The FAN 960
While the Vancouver Canucks head into the regular season on a loss, their performance
|Flames and Canucks on Thursday |
throughout the preseason has turned many heads. The Canucks went an astounding 7-0-2 and have now gone back-to-back exhibition schedules without surrendering a regulation loss.
One player to watch is Sergei Shirokov. The 23 year-old rookie led all Canucks in scoring with seven points in four games – one of which came at Calgary’s expense on Saturday night. Shirokov, who walked away from guaranteed coin at home in Russia for a chance to make the Vancouver roster, is almost guaranteed to be running on adrenaline when he hits the ice for his first NHL game.
"He's a smart hockey player and pretty skilled offensively and can find the back of the net," Ryan Kesler said of Shirokov.
Cody Hodgson, if still on the roster, will also be a player to keep an eye on. The 19 year-old centre has been hailed as the best Canuck prospect since Pavel Bure but he hasn’t impressed many over training camp. In fact, Canuck GM Mike Gillis publicly critiqued his play last week.
"He hasn't shown enough in this camp to prove that he's ready to play at this level," Gillis said on Friday.
"I don't think that's criticism. I think it's an assessment of fact."
Since those comments, Hodgson has played twice more. Once was in Calgary, where he was held pointless, and on Sunday night in Edmonton where he collected just his second point of the preseason with an assist.
If Hodgson is kept on the roster, he know he has to give everything he's got in order to remain with the big club and collecting a few points in Calgary would be an excellent way to begin.
Saturday, Oct. 3, Flames vs. Oilers at Rexall Place, 8:00 p.m. MST, CBC & The FAN 960
The Edmonton Oilers want to look like an entirely different squad than they did last year and so far, they’re succeeding.
|Flames and Oilers Saturday |
Once known as the “softies” of the division, they’ve dispelled idea that over the preseason. While their roster hasn’t changed a lot, there’s a different mentality in the locker room thanks in large part to the new coaching staff.
"It's the old story; it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog," said head coach Pat Quinn.
"You have to be willing to do those sorts of things. I don't mean going in and getting beat up; just don't concede the puck without contesting it in some fashion."
After a bitter departure, Mike Comrie is back in Edmonton and is trying his hardest to win over the reluctant fan base. His method? By putting up as many points as he can muster.
Once one of the “most hated men in Edmonton” – a club that includes names like Chris Pronger and Dany Heatley – he has put up 10 points in exhibition play and finally got a roaring ovation from Edmonton fans on Sunday night when he potted two goals against the Canucks. Comrie once scored 33 goals, a career best, in an Edmonton jersey and he’s aiming to beat that.
Another surprise has been J.F. Jacques. After missing numerous games last season due to an inflamed disc in his back and frayed ligaments in his wrist, the forward propelled himself to the top line with an amazing training camp performance.
"He’s gone through a lot of adversity, but kept battling and it’s always nice to see guys put in the work," Shawn Horcoff said of Jacques.