It’s Hockey Day in Canada today, so as soon as you’re finished reading this post you should go grab your skates and your stick and head to your local outdoor rink to play some shinny… unless of course, you live in Vancouver where there isn’t really a winter so this isn’t an option.
CBC came up with the idea of Hockey Day in Canada a few years ago and from its commercial beginnings it’s turning into something fun for a lot of people. My Facebook feed is full of people sharing their pond hockey exploits today, and as soon as I’m finished typing this I’ll be doing the same. If you’re around Confederation Park in Calgary come out to the rink and shoot some pucks with me!
After the sun goes down, the Calgary Flames will face off against divisional rivals, the Vancouver Canucks. The game starts at 8pm and, not surprisingly, will broadcast be on CBC and Fan960.
Calgary has not had a lot of success against the Canucks recently, save for their last game, where Calgary won 3-1. Tonight’s game will be an even bigger challenge as they will be without checking-line centre, Blair Jones, who is out of the lineup for an indefinite amount of time with a fractured ankle. Jones blocked a shot while killing a penalty in OT in Phoenix and was unable to do more than stand in one place for the 15-odd seconds it took for the Coyotes to score the game-winner.
Jones has played very well recently, and has allowed Brent Sutter to have a bit more flexibility putting other centres (namely Olli Jokinen) on the ice against “softer” lines. Jones consistent play might have contributed more to Olli’s point streak than many people realize. In Blair’s place tonight will be Mikael Backlund, who will certainly do his best to match up against the Canucks second line (Booth-Kesler-Burrows).
Here are the rest of the projected lineups.
Projected Canucks lineups
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Byron Bitz
Alex Burrows-Ryan Kesler-David Booth
Mason Raymond-Manny Malhotra-Jannik Hansen
Maxim Lapierre-Cody Hodgson-Mike Duco
Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler-Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts-Aaron Rome
I feel like a broken record after saying this before every game since the beginning of December, but it is another important game for the Flames. At the end of this past week, Calgary ended up slipping down one spot in the Western Conference standings after getting the single point in an OT loss against Phoenix, while watching both the Coyotes and Dallas Stars take 2 points each. Sure, the Flames are only 3 points out of the playoff race, but there are 5 teams in that same race, and four of them are currently ahead of the Flames.
With the good ol’ Flames-Canucks rivalry as strong as ever, it will be an interesting game tonight. Let’s just hope the Flames bring their A game. The Hockey Gods know they need it.