Just two days after losing the 29th-ranked Islanders on home ice, the Flames are in Vancouver tonight to take on the Canucks (8PM MT, Sportsnet Flames), who are one of the NHL's hottest teams at the moment, going 9-0-1 in their past ten games to vault themselves into a tie with the Red Wings for first overall in the league.
After what happened the last time these two teams played, most Flames fans are likely expecting a loss tonight. The Canucks have that uncanny and maddening ability to win some games that they don't necessarily deserve to win because of the quick-strike offence and Luongo shutting the door between the pipes.
It's difficult to find a weakness in this Canucks' lineup this season. In the past, physical play shutting down the Sedin line would mean you were practically guaranteed a victory against Vancouver, but that is no longer the case, as the Canucks are getting offence from throughout their lineup, boasting a much stronger bottom-six including the likes of Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra. Ranking in the top ten both on the penalty kill and the powerplay, it'll likely be tough for the Flames to break through on special teams, although the PK is one area where Roberto Lunongo has struggled, with an SV% of .875.
The loss of Sami Salo doesn't appear to have hurt the Canucks much on the back end either, as they continue to lead the league in goal differential and are getting a lot of mileage out of defenders Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff, who also rank 5th and 6th on the team in scoring, respectively.
On the other side of the equation, Miikka Kiprusoff has a GAA of 7.77 in his past three games against the Canucks, in which the Sedins have combined to score a total of 15 points [Flames.com]. There's no question they have Calgary's number, and that probably won't change tonight unless the visitors catch them on an off night or somehow manage to clamp down defensively as a team.
Lines and Pairings:
Mikael Backlund finally draws back into the lineup in place of Niklas Hagman, who will be a healthy scratch after going eight consecutive games without a point. Backlund will start the night centering the second line between Brendan Morrison and Rene Bourque, looking to ignite what have been two fairly listless offensive contributors of late.
Kipper starts in net for the visitors while Luongo counters for the Canucks.
Enjoy the game everyone and bemoan the Flames' return to sub-.500 territory in the comments. Go Flames.