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Preview: Flames at Canucks

Calgary's Brian Elliott tries for sixth straight win; Ryan Miller starts for Vancouver

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

FLAMES (21-17-2) at CANUCKS (19-18-3)

10 p.m. ET; SNP, SNW, NHL.TV


Flames team scope

The Calgary Flames know they can open up a big gap on the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs race if they can sweep back-to-back games against their Pacific Division rival Friday at Rogers Place and Saturday at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary holds the first wild card from the Western Conference; the Flames are two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, who own the second wild card, and three in front of Vancouver. "We want to separate ourselves … try to create some distance," defenseman Mark Giordano said. "These are important games, back-to-back against a divisional opponent who we are fighting to get into those playoff spots. I fully expect it to be sort of like a playoff game." Calgary has won four of its past five games and won't make any lineup changes after two straight wins, meaning that goalie Brian Elliott will start a third straight game for the first time since playing five in a row in late October. After losing the No. 1 job to Chad Johnson through mid-December, Elliott has won his past five starts, including a 4-1 victory against the Canucks on Dec. 23. "He's gotten used to being in Calgary, having a new child and a new system in front of him and new teammates and now you see the confidence in him," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "You knew as a veteran that's had success in the League he would find his way back to his game."


Canucks team scope

Vancouver has won five in a row since a 4-1 loss to the Flames on Dec. 23 in which they were held to 14 shots, but that doesn't mean they've forgotten the lopsided loss. "They sort of embarrassed us the last time," defenseman Christopher Tanev said. "It's a chance for us to show them we are a better team than we were two weeks ago." Top-pair defenseman Alexander Edler returned from injury after the loss in Calgary; since his return, Vancouver has won five straight for the first time in more than three years. Goalie Ryan Miller, who did not play in Calgary, has won four in a row, allowing five goals. He had his first shutout of the season against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. "Defensively we have played better," coach Willie Desjardins said. "There has been times we bent a little bit but we didn't break." The Canucks gave up a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal in their last game against the Flames, whose 10th-ranked power play has scored in 12 of the past 14 games and has five goals in the past two. "They got a lot of guys that can really move it around out there," forward Brandon Sutter said. "Obviously [Johnny] Gaudreau is a pretty key guy on their power play and we don't want to give him too much time and space. The best way to do that is to stay out of the box."


Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Sean Monahan -- Alex Chiasson

Matthew Tkachuk -- Mikael Backlund -- Michael Frolik

Kris Versteeg -- Sam Bennett -- Micheal Ferland

Lance Bouma -- Matt Stajan -- Freddie Hamilton

Mark Giordano -- Dougie Hamilton

TJ Brodie -- Dennis Wideman

Tyler Wotherspoon -- Deryk Engelland

Brian Elliott

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Garnet Hathaway

Injured: Ladislav Smid (neck), Troy Brouwer (finger)


Canucks projected lineup

Daniel Sedin -- Henrik Sedin -- Jayson Megna

Markus Granlund -- Brandon Sutter -- Loui Eriksson

Sven Baertschi -- Bo Horvat -- Alexandre Burrows

Brendan Gaunce -- Michael Chaput -- Jack Skille

Alexander Edler -- Troy Stecher

Luca Sbisa -- Christopher Tanev

Ben Hutton -- Nikita Tryamkin

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Scratched: Anton Rodin, Alex Biega, Reid Boucher

Injured: Jannik Hansen (knee), Erik Gudbranson (wrist surgery), Derek Dorsett (neck surgery), Philip Larsen (concussion)


Status report

Jokipakka will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game and third time in the past six after playing the previous 11. … Boucher skated with the Canucks on Friday for the first time since being acquired on waivers from the New Jersey Devils two days earlier. He's not expected to play in either game against the Flames. Markstrom is expected to start in Calgary on Saturday.


Who's hot

Backlund has scored a goal in five straight games; he has six goals and three assists in that stretch. Tkachuk, a 19-year-old rookie, has one goal and seven assists during a seven-game point streak. … Baertschi has four goals and six points during a four-game point streak and seven goals and 12 points in 11 games since being a healthy scratch on Dec. 11. Linemate Horvat has two goals and four assists during a five-game point streak.

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