VANCOUVER, BC -- The Calgary Flames are ready for the puck to drop.
After clinching their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009, the Flames are ready to kick off their postseason schedule in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday (8 p.m. MT; CBC, SN960).
“I’m excited,” alternate captain Kris Russell said. “This is a great opportunity. I think we’re excited about the group we have, the youth we have, and some of the veteran guys. We’re looking forward to a good start.
“It’s special. It’s different, you don’t know what to expect but once you go out, hear the crowd and the puck drops. It’s just like any other game. It’s a game that we need to win, but they’ll have a lot of fun with it.”
Russell, a veteran of eight seasons but just 13 playoff games, isn’t the only one excited.
Though his status is unknown heading into the series opener, Sam Bennett is equally anticipating getting underway.
“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “It’s exciting in the dressing room and on the ice. We’re all really pumped up for this game and really excited. This will definitely be a fun one.
“It’s meant a lot. I still don’t know if I’m going to get a chance or not, but just being here and being around the guys, it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs and it’s the most exciting time of year.”
There is plenty to do to ensure Calgary’s first playoff game in six years is fruitful.
First on the agenda is finding a way to stop Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
The pair, who finished first and second in scoring respectively for Vancouver, combined for 38 goals and 149 points to form one of the most potent pairs in the National Hockey League this season. Their individual point totals, 76 for Daniel and 73 for Henrik, finished 9th and 13th, respectively, in points League-wide.
“They probably play that two-man cycle better than anyone in the league,” Russell said. “They find each other. We’ve got to make sure that when we have a chance to pressure them, if they are bobbling the puck or it’s up for a battle we’ve got to go. At the same time, when they start going we’ve got to contain them and make sure we are in between them and the net.”
Henrik is equally concerned about Calgary’s top line of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler.
“They’ve been the best line in hockey for the past couple months or so,” Henrik said. It’s going to be a tough matchup for us. We roll the lines all year. I’m sure we’re going to keep doing that. We’ll see what they want to do.”
Bennett, 18, got some power play reps in at the morning skate, but it was Mason Raymond who took the first turn in line rushes alongside Joe Colborne and Mikael Backlund.
Hartley wouldn’t commit to which winger would draw in.
"We've had a real competitive season and right now we're pretty healthy at forward so it's a battle for everyone, it's the same rule that applies for everyone and all about being competitive,” Hartley said. “We've never singled out one player since the start of the year and it's going to be the same thinking along the playoffs. We didn't make our final decision on the roster for tonight's game, we're going to let the players know before the game and that's the way it's going to be all playoffs."
Calgary and the Canucks meet for the first time in the playoffs since the 2004 Western Conference Quarter-Final. Calgary won the best-of-seven series in dramatic fashion with now-assistant coach Martin Gelinas scoring the winner in Game 7 to advance. The win propelled the Flames into the second round and, eventually, the Stanley Cup Final.
Overall, the 2015 matchup marks the seventh time the two clubs will face off in the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup -- the most against one team for both. The Flames hold a 4-2 series advantage and have won 17 of 32 matchups between the two clubs, outscoring Vancouver 101-96 along the way.
Each of the last three series Calgary and the Canucks have been involved in have gone to a full seven games, seen overtime in Game 7, and the winner has gone on to compete for the Stanley Cup (1989, Flames win, 1994: Vancouver loss, 2004: Flames loss).
CANUCKS PROJECTED LINEUP
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Radim Vrbata
Shawn Matthias - Brad Richardson - Derek Dorsett
Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen
Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa - Kevin Bieksa
Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Canucks will be broadcast on CBC (TV) and Sportsnet 960 The FAN (radio). Game time is 8:00 PM MT. Channel numbers for Telus, Shaw, and Bell users can be found on the Broadcast Schedule page.
The Calgary Flames official Twitter account (@NHLFlames) will be live-tweeting the game and providing pre and post-game content. Fans can also follow along on the Flames official Instagram account (@NHLFlames) for exclusive, behind-the-scenes content.
The Calgary Flames official app is another way to follow along with the action, with goal and period summary notifications. The app is free and available to download on iTunes and Google Play.