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THE SKINNY: FLAMES VS. AVALANCHE - GAME 1

The Flames open the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight at the 'Dome

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

GAME 1 - WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND

8:00 p.m. MT | TV: CBC/Sportsnet | Radio: Sportsnet 960 The FAN

 

Video: The quest for the Cup begins tonight

 

SERIES SCHEDULE:

Game 2: April 13, 8:30 p.m. - Scotiabank Saddledome
Game 3: April 15, 8 p.m. - Pepsi Center
Game 4: April 17, 8 p.m. - Pepsi Center
x-Game 5: April 19, TBD - Scotiabank Saddledome
x-Game 6: April 21, TBD - Pepsi Center
x-Game 7: April 23, TBD - Scotiabank Saddledome
x- if necessary

 

LEADING SCORERS (REGULAR SEASON):

Flames:

1. Johnny Gaudreau (36-62-99)
2. Sean Monahan (34-48-82)
3. Elias Lindholm (27-51-78)

Avalanche:

1. Nathan MacKinnon (41-58-99)
2. Mikko Rantanen (31-56-87)
3. Gabriel Landeskog (34-41-75)

 

SPECIAL TEAMS (REGULAR SEASON);

Powerplay:

Flames - 19.3 (18th)
Avs - 22.0 (7th)

Penalty kill:

Flames - 79.7 (21st)
Avs - 78.7 (25th)

 

Video: Parker sets up tonight's match-up vs. Colorado

 

GAME-DAY STORIES:

 

>> RELATED: SERIES PREVIEW - FLAMES VS. AVS
>> RELATED: PROJECTED LINEUP
>> RELATED: THE WAIT IS OVER

 

SETTIN' IT UP:

US:

The Flames are coming off a magical regular season that saw them win 50 games for only the second time in franchise history and collect their first division title in 13 years. With nine players either matching or setting new career highs in points (including 99 from Johnny Gaudreau - the most in a single campaign since Theo Fleury hit triple digits way back in '93 - and 74 from Norris-frontrunner Mark Giordano, who took the NHL by storm with one of the finest years ever by a blueliner donning the Flaming C), they became one of the league's most revered offensive teams with 289 goals.

Now they hope to carry that into the playoffs.

For the first time in some time, the Flames are 100% healthy, meaning Sam Bennett - who missed the final two games (lower body) and seven of the previous nine (upper body) - is back in the fold at just the right time.

The Flames, who are coming off a rare stretch of three straight practice days, are raring to go:

"We touched on everything," said head coach Bill Peters. "We've done as much as we could, obviously, and a lot of it is just turning on the light bulb again. We'll go full boat (Thursday) - everyone will skate - and then the first question you guys will have when I come off is, 'Who's going to be the starter (in goal)?' I'll answer that and away we go."

Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan, Mark Jankowski, Garnet Hathaway, Andrew Mangiapane, Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson and David Rittich are all making their Stanley Cup Playoff debut.

 

Video: "It's going to be a lot of fun"

 

THEM:

The big story surrounding the Avalanche this week was whether or not top-line talent Mikko Rantanen would be available for Game 1. The 6-foot-4, 215 lb. Finn missed the final eight games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, but a took a regular turn during Wednesday's practice and will be in the lineup tonight for the visitors.

Rantanen - who was the first player to reach the 30, 40, and 50-point marks during the regular campaign - will start on a line centered by veteran Carl Soderberg, according to Avs head coach Jared Bednar.

The Avalanche, like the Flames, have yet to confirm their starting netminder, but it seems likely that 27-year-old Phillip Grubauer will get the nod. The first-year Av - who started Games 1 and 2 of last year's playoffs with the eventual Cup champion Washington Capitals - appeared in nine of Colorado's final 11 games of the season, posting a 7-0-2 record, a .953 save percentage and a 1.63 goals-against average.

 

Video: The Avalanche talk about facing the Flames

 

THIS, THAT, & THE OTHER:

THIS: The Flames have won eight of the last nine meetings with the Avalanche, and went a perfect three-for-three during the 2018-19 regular season. Mark Giordano owned the season series, recording seven points (1G, 6A) in the three victories, while Matthew Tkachuk (1G, 3A) and Mikael Backlund (2G, 2A) were not far behind. ... THAT: The Flames are the first team since the 2000-01 Pittsburgh Penguins to ice five players with 70 or more points in the regular season (Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Kovalev, Martin Straka, Robert Lang and Mario Lemieux did it for the Pens, while Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Tkachuk and Giordano achieved that historic milestone for the Flames). ... THE OTHER: Mike Smith is no stranger to playoff success. In 19 appearances (including 17 starts), the 37-year-old has a .945 save percentage and a 1.88 goals-against average. Smith is best known for his run as a member of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2012 playoffs, leading the Desert Dogs to the Conference Final with a .944 save percentage and a 1.99 GAA in 16 starts.

 

Video: "It's an exciting time of the year"

 

QUOTABLE:

"It's what we all play for. Being around and not being able to be part of it for a lot of years, you realize how quick (your career) can pass by. … We have a good group in here, a really good team, and we have to bring that confidence into Game 1." - Giordano

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