October is finally upon us, which means that real hockey is now less than a week away. After defeating the Islanders by a score of 3-2 the other night in Saskatoon, the Flames are set to take on the Oilers in a battle of two undefeated teams tonight. Trimming the remaining proverbial fat from the final roster prior to next week's season opener. the team placed defenceman Staffan Kronwall on waivers yesterday, which he subsequently cleared, and sent forward Greg Nemisz to Abbotsford after the former first rounder was largely unimpressive in camp. Injuries have forced the team to retain some players that likely would have already been bound for B.C's interior, as Rene Bourque has joined Olli Jokinen on the shelf for "maintenance" reasons. Both forwards are currently listed as day-to-day.
It looks as if Mikael Backlund will once again take Jokinen's place between Tanguay and Iginla on the first line tonight, while the line of Hagman-Moss-Kotalik will remain in tact after a strong showing on Wednesday. Glencross will slide down to the third line with Stefan Meyer and Tim Jackman while Brett Sutter will centre the fourth unit flanked by Raitis Ivanans and Jon Rheault. On defence, T.J. Brodie will skate alongside Adam Pardy again while the first two pairings will be familiar to Flames fans who watched the team in the second half of last season. Robyn Regehr and Ian White will man the first pairing while Jay Bouwmeester and Steve Staios will skate on the second.
On the opposing side, the Flames will get their first look at Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi tonight as all three are slated to suit up for the Greasers while forwards Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, and Sean Horcoff will also see action on the top two lines. On the back end, former Flame Jim Vandermeer will skate with Theo Peckam on the bottom pairing while Ladislav Smid, Kurtis Foster, Tom Gilbert, and Ryan Whitney make up the top four.
In goal, Kiprusoff is set to face off against his old nemesis in Khabibulin, who should get the start for the Oilers, and will likely split the goaltending duties with Henrik Karlsson. As Pat Steinberg at FlamesNation points out, the likelihood of at least one scrap tonight is reasonably high with Edmonton dressing two tough guys in Steve MacIntyre and Zach Stortini and Ivanans being in the Flames' lineup.
With only one pre-season game left on the docket after tonight, any final adjustments to the roster will likely come swiftly as most teams get close to icing their finished products. The Flames' situation is complicated by injuries and cap issues, so any impending moves will likely reflect that. The next six days before the season officially begins will likely be as interesting as they are unbearable.
Enjoy tonight's game if you are fortunate enough to catch it and contribute any musings of interest in the comments!