Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC
When: 7:00 pm PST
Where to Watch: Sportsnet, CBC
SB Nation Opposition Blog: Matchsticks And Gasoline
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: I suppose if you wanted a sign the Canucks were serious when they said that they’re still intending to make the playoffs and not just saying what they think people want to hear would be bringing Sven Baertschi back into the lineup. He’s been cleared to play and should be in tonight, but I am not really sure why this is happening.
As you know, Baertschi’s season has been derailed twice this season because of concussion related issues, and with his history, one would think given the odds of the Canucks being able to actually make the post season, and what the consequences could be for Baertschi if he were to suffer another head injury, is the risk worth the reward? I mean, obviously the risk will always be there, but giving him the summer to recover certainly isn’t going to be detrimental to him. I just have an uneasy feeling about it, especially going into a series of games against teams that they’re battling with for the same playoff spot over the next couple weeks.
As far as tonight goes, the Flames could be without a big part of their lineup as Sam Bennett (no longer 18 years old) may be out after suffering an upper body injury against Ottawa Thursday night. If he’s not good to go, they could see James Neal back in after being out for a while with injury, and have also recalled Alan Quine from Stockton of the AHL. It will probably be a game time decision.
The Flames have been coasting a bit of late, 5-5-0 in their last 10, but apart from trying to fend off the struggling Sharks, they should be able to keep the red hot Vegas Golden Knights from overtaking them for the Pacific Division title. It’s been a remarkable turn around for the Flames, and head coach Bill Peters deserves a lot of credit. He’s done a hell of a job since coming over from Carolina, and has this team looking like they could go on a long run this spring. There’s goaltending questions, but if they can get some consistency from either David Rittich or Mike Smith, they’re in the mix to be the team that makes it’s way out of the West. It does make you wonder if it will be the same situation that we saw in 2011 with the Canucks: sure, they won the West, but were broken and battered by the time they got there. If whoever survives the West has to face Tampa in the final, it’s gonna be ugly.
There’s a couple early games you’ll want to keep an eye on for the Wild Card race. The Arizona Coyotes are in New Jersey to take on the Devils for a 10 am PDT start. A win for the ‘Yotes will vault them over Minnesota into the 2nd Wild Card slot. At noon, we have the Chicago Blackhawks taking on the Avalanche in Colorado. The Avs can also claim that spot with a win, but Arizona has the tie-breaker on them should both teams win today. There’s also the Oilers and Senators at 1pm for the lulz.
Tonight there’s Leafs/Rangers and Sabres/Canadiens, the Montreal game a huge one as they try to get a stranglehold on that Wild Card spot. Minnesota is taking on Carolina tonight, so that game will be interesting after we see what happens this afternoon. We also have the Pittsburgh Penguins in Dallas to take on the Stars, another game with Western Wild Card implications. And there’s also the nightcap game featuring the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. I wonder if Ilya Kovalchuk makes it into the lineup tonight after calling out Willie for benching him again?
Good stuff here from @curtis zupke. Kings' mistake of hiring Desjardins looks worse every day: Kings' Ilya Kovalchuk feels like he didn't 'have a chance' after Willie Desjardins took over https://t.co/aYWNfjl2KT— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) March 23, 2019
I love that they’re flat out calling it a mistake and he’s not even done his first season. It speaks volumes about how much of a mistake it was by the Canucks to wait so long to fire him. He’s not suited to coach at the NHL level and if the Kings have any sense, they’ll cut him loose this summer. Also, the Jayson Megna Effect is real, and it’s spectacular.
From the Province, here’s what we should see for lineups tonight:
Josh Leivo – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi – Adam Gaudette – Jake Virtanen
Markus Granlund – Jay Beagle – Tyler Motte
Alexander Edler – Alex Biega
Guillaume Brisebois – Troy Stecher
Ashton Sautner – Luke Schenn
Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Michael Frolik
Alan Quine – Mark Jankowski – Austin Czarnik
Andrew Mangiapane – Derek Ryan – Garnet Hathaway
TJ Brodie – Mark Giordano
Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic
Oscar Fantenberg – Rasmus Andersson
Goalies: David Rittich, Mike Smith
Flames: LW Sam Bennett (upper body), RW James Neal (upper body)
Canucks: Brandon Sutter (hernia) Ben Hutton (foot), Antoine Roussel (knee), Quinn Hughes (ankle), Ryan Spooner (groin), Chris Tanev (foot)
Flames: 21.1% (52 for 247, 11th)
Canucks: 15.9$ (37 for 232, 26th)
Flames: 80.0% (20th)
Canucks: 80.4% (18th)
And to get you all set for tonight, we spoke with Mike MacGillivray from our pals at Matchsticks and Gasoline about the Flames:
1- Obviously people are excited to see this team go on a long playoff run, but do they have what it takes to get out of the West against teams like Vegas, Nashville and San Jose?
I think the team that the Flames seem to matchup least well against is the Knights due to their depth and Fleury still being a beast. However I still really like their chances, especially if they can clinch home ice advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
2- The Flames have gotten good seasons out of their stars, but they seem to not get enough credit for getting offence from their role players. Who is someone you would consider an unsung hero for the Flames this season?
Somebody who has really emerged in the second half of the season has been Derek Ryan. He’s a Bill Peters guy dating back to Carolina, but has really taken off and provided some great depth in the bottom six. He along with Andrew Mangiapane and Garnet Hathaway have formed a tremendous fourth line since the all star break.
3-Goaltending. It’s the elephant in the room. It seems like David Rittich will get the crease, but can he keep it, and are you confident in Mike Smith if he has to step in if Rittich can’t?
I’ve been pretty happy with both goaltenders over the last 4-6 weeks. Mike Smith has played well aside from the occasional puck-handling gaffe. Rittich has provided steady goaltending for the most part and that’s all the Flames need to be successful in my opinion.
4- Bill Peters for the Jack Adams Award: Yes or No?
I say Yes, but I could see why a few coaches like John Cooper, Barry Trotz, and even someone like Craig Berube could get in ahead of him in the queue.
5- Tell us someone we should be keeping an eye on tonight that we may not know much about.
Watch for Andrew Mangiapane, he’s really taking off as a part of the aforementioned fourth line as of late and is now putting up points. A 2015 6th round pick, he’s looking like could be a steal.
Thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer these, and here’s their game day preview if you are so inclined.
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: We get a taste of one of this year’s highly anticipated albums today as DEATH ANGEL have released the title track from ‘Humanicide’. The album hits stores May 31 on Nuclear Blast Records, and the band will be on the road a ton this year (no Canadian dates as of yet, but we’ll keep you posted).
And speaking of Death Angel, if you’re into Bay Area thrash metal there’s a great documentary coming out based on the book Murder In The Front Row. The book details the dawn of the Bay Area scene with tons of photographs from Harold Oimoen (former D.R.I. bassist) who was there from the beginning, documenting bands like Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Megadeth, Testament, Death Angel, Possessed, Vio-Lence and tons more. It looks like it’s gonna be a hell of a movie, and they just released a preview clip.