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Flames turn to Chad Johnson in goal

Calgary goalie Brian Elliott has struggled; Loui Eriksson to make debut for Vancouver

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

FLAMES (0-2-0) at CANUCKS (0-0-0)

10 p.m. ET; CBC, NHL.TV

VANCOUVER -- The Calgary Flames will turn to backup goalie Chad Johnson to try and turn around a slow start to their season Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, who are hoping a new top line and more balanced attack will get their season off to a good start at Rogers Arena.

Brian Elliott, who was acquired from the St. Louis Blues at the 2016 NHL Draft to be the Flames No.1 goalie, gave up 10 goals on 55 shots in the first two games of the season (each against the Edmonton Oilers), including a 5-3 loss in their home opener on Friday.

Johnson, a Calgary native, will play his first regular season game for the Flames since signing a one-year, $1.7 million contract as a free agent on July 1. He had a .920 save percentage and played in a career-high 45 games for the Buffalo Sabres last season. 

"We got him this summer for a reason and when we're playing three games in four nights that's why we wanted to have another really good goalie with us," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. 

Although Elliott had to face Oilers star Connor McDavid, who had three goals and six points in the two games, 

Johnson will face a more deliberate, balanced attack from a Canucks team that scored the second fewest goals in the NHL last season (186), trailing the New Jersey Devils (182).

"It's going to be a different game defensively for us," Gulutzan said.

The Flames hope to play better defensively than they did for Elliott.

"We feel safe with both of them in net so I'm excited for Chad to get his first start and hopefully we can help him out better than we have with [Elliott] so far," center Mikael Backlund said.

Vancouver is hoping the addition to free agent forward Loui Eriksson, who scored 30 goals for the Boston Bruins last season, will bolster the top line and power play with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.  

Coach Willie Desjardins juggled his forward lines, dropping center Bo Horvat down into a checking role and promoting center Markus Granlund to an offensive spot with Sven Baertschi. It's a move that caught many off guard, including Horvat, who led the Canucks in scoring the second half of last season with 30 points in his past 43 games playing mostly with Baertschi. Granlund has 31 points in 102 career NHL games.

"We need to play four lines, we have nine games in 15 days," Desjardins said. "We want to find lines we think can match up against everybody, that are good defensively, but the biggest thing is we want to have some balance in our lineup because we need to play four lines."

Desjardins is more worried about the Canucks playing their first game in a week against a Flames team that has already played twice. 

"It's a big concern," Desjardins said. "You just can't the game tempo [in practice]."

 

Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Sean Monahan -- Kris Versteeg

Matthew Tkachuk -- Sam Bennett -- Troy Brouwer

Lance Bouma -- Mikael Backlund -- Michael Frolik

Micheal Ferland -- Matt Stajan -- Alex Chiasson

Mark Giordano -- TJ Brodie

Jyrki Jokipakka -- Dougie Hamilton

Brett Kulak -- Deryk Engelland

Chad Johnson

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Nicklas Grossmann, Freddie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman

Injured: Ladislav Smid (neck)

 

Canucks projected lineup

Daniel Sedin -- Henrik Sedin -- Loui Eriksson

Sven Baertschi -- Markus Granlund -- Jake Virtanen

Brendan Gaunce -- Brandon Sutter -- Jannik Hansen

Alexandre Burrows -- Bo Horvat -- Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler -- Christopher Tanev

Ben Hutton -- Erik Gudbranson

Luca Sbisa -- Philip Larsen

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Scratched: Jack Skille, Nikita Tryamkin, Alex Biega

Injured: Tom Nilsson


Status report

Kulak will play his first game of the season and 10th game of his career in place of Wideman. "We're carrying eight 'D' and Brett has played well in the exhibition and we wanted to get a young guy in," Gulutzan said. … The Canucks signed Skille to a one-year contract worth $700,000 this week after he came to training camp on a professional tryout contract and outplayed incumbent Emerson Etem for a roster spot. Etem was claimed by the Anaheim Ducks off waivers on Thursday.

 

Who's hot

Backlund had three assists in the two games against the Oilers and Frolik scored a goal in each.

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