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PREVIEW - FLAMES-CANUCKS (SPLIT SQUAD)

Flames open pre-season with pair of tilts against Canucks

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

The Flames kick off their 2019 pre-season schedule tonight with a pair of games against the Vancouver Canucks. One half of the squad will travel west to face their Pacific rivals in Victoria, B.C., while the other half will remain in Calgary for a 7 p.m. puck drop at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

You can catch all the action from Calgary LIVE right here on CalgaryFlames,com, while the Victoria matchup will be available on Sportsnet West. In both cases, regional restrictions apply.

 

Video: Brendan Parker sets up tonight's split-squad action

 

FLAMES VS. CANUCKS

GAME DAY VIDEO

STATS & LINEUP INFO

WHERE TO WATCH

We'll be streaming tonight's game right here on CalgaryFlames.com beginning at 7 p.m. MT

flames @ canucks

GAME DAY VIDEO

STATS & LINEUP INFO

WHERE TO WATCH

Tonight's game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet West beginning at 8 p.m. MT

AT CALGARY

Imagine…

Suiting up for your first NHL game and looking across at your linemate, the 6-foot-3, 231 lb., Stanley Cup-winner, toughest-dude-in-all-the-Pacific, Milan Lucic.

Welcome to the show, Jakob Pelletier.

"I'm pretty excited," the rookie laughed. "It's not every day that you can play with a guy like that.

"Can't wait. It's going to be fun."

Pelletier, the Flames' first-round pick (26th overall) in the June draft, has arrived as advertised through the first four days of training camp.

Speed, skill, smarts - the gamut - Pelletier has it all.

He's a player that's been in the spotlight his entire career, played in the big moments, games that have mattered a whole lot more than the kickoff to the NHL pre-season, but this - admittedly - has a completely different feel.

"I think I'm going to be nervous," Pelletier chuckled. "It's a dream to play with those guys (Lucic and Derek Ryan). "I've got to stay calm and play my kind of game and see what happens."

Pelletier, 18, had 39 goals and 89 points with the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats last year.

His offensive talents are undeniable.

In putting him alongside players with more than 1,000 games of NHL experience, he's being given every opportunity to succeed.

But, more importantly, to learn.

"I want to see how he reacts to situations, and I want to be able to give him some feedback on the bench," said head coach Bill Peters. "I thought he was real good in the two games that I got to watch (rookie games vs. Edmonton), but it's different being right there in the trenches with him.

"He's going to get talked to on the bench. The communication between those two (Lucic and Ryan) will be real good.

"He's a real confident kid. He's a real smart player and I want to see him play with NHL players."

Pelletier and Glenn Gawdin are the only two rookies dressing at forward, as the Flames are going with a veteran-heavy lineup for the home account opener.

Twelve players from last year's roster are suiting up, including the top two lines of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm, and Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik.

But there are some battles worth keeping an eye on lower down the scroll.

Forward invites Devante Smith-Pelly and Zac Rinaldo, along with defenceman Andrew MacDonald, are getting their first chance to impress the brass.

"Looking forward to getting some game action tonight," said MacDonald, who has nearly 600 games of NHL experience with the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers. "Just trying to play a good, solid game.

"Jump up when the opportunities arise and play some solid D. It's obviously the first one, so you're trying to feel it out a little bit, but it will be good to get back into a rhythm. You do the summer hockey and you play 5-on-5, but there's not much structure, so it's difficult to mimic that feeling of a real good. I think everyone is looking forward to getting that feeling back.

"Just try to control the things like that I can, and that's the work ethic, how you prepare yourself, how you present yourself on and off the ice.

"Hopefully that's enough to earn a contract."

In goal, David Rittich will get the start, while Cam Talbot will sub in around the 30-minute mark.

Puck drop is 7 p.m. MT and you can watch the game LIVE right here on CalgaryFlames.com.

 

Video: "Guys are itching to play"

 

AT VICTORIA

Back where it all began.

For Calgary native Matthew Phillips, Victoria, B.C., will always be like a second home to him.

"It's a really unique opportunity," said Phillips, who played four seasons with the WHL's Royals before graduating to the pro ranks last year.

Tonight, he returns as a member of the Flames, in a split-squad tilt against the Vancouver Canucks.

"I've had my fingers crossed ever since the game got announced," Phillips said. "I'm really, really excited. It's going to be cool."

Phillips will play on the second line with Dillon Dube and Alan Quine, as the younger of the two teams will fly west to Vancouver Island later this afternoon.

Phillips is one of six rookies - along with seven AHL veterans and one PTO (Tobi Rieder) - to play in this matchup, with Mark Jankowski, Austin Czarnik, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson representing the core group of NHL troupers.  

It's a good opportunity for Phillips, who nabbed goals in back-to-back games last week as the Flames defeated the Oilers twice in a pair of all-rookie encounters.

"Just having that first year of pro under my belt is really big," said Phillips, who had 13 goals and 38 points in his first year with the Flames' AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat, last year. "Just more comfortable with the pace of everything and how quickly you need to make decisions."

While tonight, his focus is "first and foremost" on the business at hand, he can't help but gush when reminiscing about his old stomping grounds.

"The guys are giving him a bit of a hard time," laughed Quine. "He's a big deal there.

"Seriously, though, good for him. This is a rare opportunity for him and I personally can't wait to see the reception."

Quine, meanwhile, has a bit of business to take care of himself.

The 26-year-old re-signed in the off-season after spending the majority of the campaign with the Heat, but appeared twice in Calgary on separate call-ups and showed well on both occasions.

The Ottawa product had three goals and five points in 13 games, and is eager to show the coaching and management staff that he wants a full-time gig this year.

"I've got to build off the confidence I gained last year," Quine said. "Use my speed and create opportunities, be good in my own end, solid in the dot. It's a full 200-foot game for me, and that's what I have to showcase on a daily basis to catch the eye of the coaching staff and, ultimately, help the Flames win games this year.

"That's my goal.

"To be here, all year."

Artyom Zagidulin will get the start in goal, and will be relieved by Tyler Parsons halfway through the game.

Zagidulin made 31 saves in a shutout victory over the Oilers rookies back on Sept. 7.

Puck drop is 8 p.m. MT and you can watch the game on Sportsnet.

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