VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Calgary Flames are a lot better equipped to handle a recent run of injuries to key players than they would have been when they visited the Vancouver Canucks two-and-a-half weeks ago.
Back then, everyone was still trying to figure out where to go in the new system installed by new coach Bob Hartley.
Now the incumbents can at least tell the new guys where to go.
"Now there are 17 guys that know the system, and we bring in new guys and they can just follow the lead and other guys will be able to even tell them on the ice, 'Hey, this is where you are supposed to be,'" veteran Alex Tanguay said. "A couple weeks ago we had a couple guys on each line that didn’t know where they should be."
With wins at the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets to start a three-game road trip, the Flames are showing signs of overcoming those growing pains, but injuries aren’t making it any easier.
In addition to losing workhorse No.1 goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to a lower-body injury in Detroit, the Flames will face a streaking Canucks team without forwards Mike Cammalleri, who will miss a second game with a hip flexor injury; Mikael Backlund, who is our four to six weeks with a knee sprain; and Sven Baertschi, who is listed as week to week with a hip injury. All three were in the top-six when Calgary lost 3-2 in a shootout in Vancouver on Jan. 23.
"Cammy is improving, he’s doing better, but he will not be ready for tonight’s game," Hartley said
Ben Street, who led the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate in scoring, has been called up and will make his NHL debut between Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka, who missed Calgary’s first meeting with their Northwest Division rival. Street is joining a team that has come a long way since that game, Tanguay said.
"We are getting more and more familiar [with the new system]," he said. "We didn’t want to use it as an excuse but is was a reality. We battled hard but couldn’t execute. Now we’re playing a lot better."
Here’s how the Flames lines should look as they try to end the Canucks' four-game win streak:
Curtis Glencross – Alex Tanguay – Jarome Iginla
Jiri Hudler – Ben Street – Roman Cervenka
Blake Comeau – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak
Steve Begin – Blair Jones – Tim Jackman
Mark Giordano – Jay Bouwmeester
TJ Brodie – Dennis Wideman
Derek Smith – Chris Butler
Injured: Mike Cammalleri, Mikael Backlund, Sven Baertschi, Miikka Kiprusoff
Scratched: Cory Sarich, Anton Babchuk
Notes: Kiprusoff was placed on IR retroactive to Feb. 5 with what is being called a Grade 1 MCL strain, and could be back as early as Wednesday against the Dallas Stars, meaning he'd miss one more game after the Canucks. … Babchuk has been activated from the injured list after missing all season so far, but won’t play Saturday.