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At the Rink: Canucks at Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The Vancouver Canucks begin the season in the same building they saw their run in 2014-15 end, but the team that was eliminated in six games of the Western Conference First Round by the Calgary Flames will look drastically different.

Vancouver welcomes eight new faces that could make their Canucks debut against the Flames on Wednesday at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Rookies Jared McCann and Ben Hutton are expected to make their NHL debuts.

"It's incredible. It's hard not to think about it, I guess," said McCann, who had 34 goals and 81 points in 56 games last season with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. "I've worked really hard to get here and my hard work has paid off. I kept my hopes high. I came into the camp wanting to make the team and wanting to make an impact, and they've given me an opportunity to do that."

McCann, Hutton and Jake Virtanen, who is expected to be a healthy scratch against the Flames, are the first trio of rookies to crack the Canucks' opening-night roster since Artem Chubarov, Steve Kariya and Peter Schaefer on Oct. 2, 1999.

It's a dramatic shift from a year ago when Canucks coach Willie Desjardins was reluctant to keep Bo Horvat, who turned 20 last April.

With McCann and Virtanen, he'll now have two 19-year-olds under his watch.

"I think the biggest thing is that you don't get intimidated," Desjardins said. "If the League intimidates you then you probably can't play. It's being able to do what you do and having confidence to do it. If you don't have the confidence, we have to take another look at it."

The advice is equally true for Hutton. The 22-year-old defenseman was selected in the fifth round (No. 147) of the 2012 NHL Draft by Vancouver, and surprised in surviving the final cut in his first professional camp after three years with the University of Maine.

Even he couldn't have projected his start on the Canucks' roster.

"I'm going to be honest and say no, I had no idea," Hutton said. "As camp went on, I was getting closer and closer to being in the lineup. Fortunately enough for me I am tonight. I'm pretty happy about that. I'm trying to stay as calm as possible but I can't lie. The nerves are there. I'm going to try to keep them out of the way once I hit the ice and just play my game. But yeah, I'm very excited for tonight."

Calgary will counter with a pair of rookies set for their first home opener, but not their NHL debuts.

Sam Bennett, 19, and Brett Kulak, 21, will be in the lineup for the Flames. They each debuted in Calgary's final regular-season game of 2014-15, with Bennett dressing for all 11 playoff games.

Bennett missed the first five months of last season after having shoulder surgery. He was reassigned to Kingston of the OHL before the Flames recalled him late in the season.

"I'm a lot more prepared and a lot more comfortable being around the guys," Bennett said. "Getting those games in the playoffs were huge for my development. I feel really good going into this year. I think it's more excitement than nerves. My first game last year was a completely different beast. I was so nervous for that game and this is much more excitement."

Here are the projected lineups:


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Brandon Sutter

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Radim Vrbata

Alexandre Burrows - Jared McCann - Jannik Hansen

Brandon Prust - Adam Cracknell - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Matt Bartkowski

Ben Hutton - Luca Sbisa

Ryan Miller

Richard Bachman

Scratched: Jake Virtanen, Yannick Weber

Injured: Chris Higgins (foot), Jacob Markstrom (lower body)


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler

Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Micheal Ferland - Sam Bennett - Josh Jooris

Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Mark Giordano - Dougie Hamilton

Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman

Deryk Engelland - Brett Kulak

Karri Ramo

Jonas Hiller

Scratched: Mason Raymond, Joni Ortio

Injured: TJ Brodie (hand), Ladislav Smid (neck), Joe Colborne (wrist)

Status report: Desjardins didn't have an immediate update on Markstrom. "I think today we'll get a better read but it might take a couple days to get a full evaluation," he said … Vancouver recalled Bachman from Utica of the American Hockey League to backup Miller…Hamilton, acquired in a draft day trade, and Frolik, signed as a free agent by Calgary on July 1, will also make their Flames debuts.

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