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PREVIEW - FLAMES VS. SHARKS

You can watch tonight's game live right here on CalgaryFlames.com

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

The Flames are back in action tonight as they host the Pacific rival San Jose Sharks at 7 p.m.

You can watch the game LIVE right here on CalgaryFlames.com or the Flames Facebook page if you live in the team's broadcast region (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Nunavut).

 

Video: All the details on Flames' match-up vs. the Sharks

 

It was a tale of two games.

Literally.

The Flames opened the pre-season with a pair of split-squad games against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, with two very different results.

In Victoria, Austin Czarnik paced the visitors with a pair of goals and a game-high seven shots en route to a 4-3 Flames victory.

In goal, Artyom Zagidulin got the start and punted away all 15 shots he faced in 30 minutes of work, and is now perfect on 46 straight tries dating back to Sept. 7 against the Edmonton Oilers Rookies.

Tyler Parsons finished the night, stopping 16 of 19 in a busy back half.

Meanwhile, Calgary native Matthew Phillips had a night to remember, collecting an assist on Dillon Dube's first-period marker, flourishing under the spotlight of a pressure-packed homecoming.

Phillips, 21, received a standing ovation when the starting lineups were announced, and was honoured with a video tribute prior to the first intermission, applauding his four years of immaculate service with the hometown team, the WHL's Victoria Royals.

It was a different story back home in Calgary, with the locals out-shooting their Pacific counterparts 38-13, but struggling to solve journeyman twine-tender Richard Bachman.

Goals by Johnny Gaudreau and Michael Frolik staked the Flames out an early 2-0 lead, but the Canucks came all the way back, with former Calgary Hitmen star Jake Virtanen scoring twice - including the tying marker and OT winner - to give the visitors a 3-2 win.

David Rittich played the first 30 minutes and change, thwarting the four Vancouver shots he faced. Cam Talbot subbed in and made his unofficial Flames debut late in the middle stanza, allowing three Canucks goals on nine shots in relief.

 

Video: "He deserves the opportunity to go in"

 

The visiting Sharks, meanwhile, enter the contest on the heels of a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday. Timo Meier, Jonny Brodzinski and Joachim Blichfeld supplied the offence for the fins, while Aaron Dell and Josef Korenar split the goaltending duties, combining for 21 saves in a losing effort.

The Sharks, who ran second to the Flames with a 46-27-9 record for 101 points last year, will have a different look to them when the puck drops in October.

Longtime captain Joe Pavelski is now departed, having signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Stars after playing the first 13 years of his career in California's tech capital. Fellow forwards Joonas Donskoi (Avalanche) and Gustav Nyquist (Columbus Blue Jackets), along with defencemen Joakim Ryan (L.A. Kings) and Justin Braun (traded to Philadelphia Flyers) are gone as well.

But the core remains - and with studs such as Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the blueline, along with Jumbo Joe Thornton, budding superstar Tomas Hertl and others up front, the Sharks remain a real threat to contend for the division crown again this year.

The Flames have a half-dozen dates left on their exhibition slate, before kicking off the regular season and the defence of the division crown Oct. 3 against their recent playoff nemesis, the Colorado Avalanche.

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