After the festivities that marked the NHL's opening day yesterday, a late-afternoon game that pits the Flames against a Sharks team that is likely expected to make the post-season might seem anti-climactic to most, but this is the game we've all been waiting for for four months.
The Flames finished last season sporting a 2-1-1 record in the four-game series against the Sharks in which Jarome Iginla led the Flames with two goals and five points and Mikka Kiprusoff battled countyman Antti Neimi in all four games with a .944 SV% against his former team. Sven Baertschi also scored one of his three goals in his brief stint with the Flames last season against the Sharks in an overtime victory.
Logan Couture led the way for the Sharks with three goals and four points in four games while Joe Thornton added four helpers and Dan Boyle led San Jose in ice-time, averaging 27 minutes per game.
The Sharks, with three players who scored 30 or more goals last year, are just as dangerous offensively as ever. Thornton, Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski are all in the lineup for opening night and will present the biggest challenge for the Flames, although Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat aren't too shabby either. Last year the Flames managed to hold the Sharks to just seven regulation goals in the series despite being out-shot 126-111, which speaks to the role luck and Kiprusoff played in securing the series 'W' for Calgary.
On the back-end for the Sharks, Brent Burns is questionable for tonight after undergoing hernia surgery. San Jose's blueline becomes slightly less formidable without 6"5 Burns, but Boyle, Douglas Murray, and former Flame Brad Stuart are still capable of inflicting damage at both ends. For the Flames, Jiri Hudler, Roman Cervenka, and Anton Babchuk are out, but it appears Iginla will play.
Lines and pairings are as follows:
Glencross - Tanguay - Iginla
Baertschi - Backlund - Cammalleri
Horak - Stajan - Stempniak
Comeau - Begin - Jackman
Bouwmeester - Giordano
Wideman - Butler
Sarich - Smith
Marleau - Thornton - Pavelski
Clowe - Couture - Havlat
Galiardi - Handzus - Wingels
Sheppard - Desjardins - Burish
Vlasic - Stuart
Irwin - Boyle
Murray - Braun
GO FLAMES GO!