February 12 2011 09:11AM
Tonight's game promises to be a DOOZY! (Photo by AP)
Game Day Recon #56 - Flames @ Canucks
It's going to be a fairly unproductive day across our great country, as we celebrate Hockey Day in Canada.
Today features 3 all-Canadian match-ups, with tonight final game features the league-leading Canucks hosting the surging Flames.
As Badger Bob Johnson used to say, "It's a great day for hockey."
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
Not too long ago, the Calgary were in a seemingly inescapable tailspin. Their manager and his coach/brother weren't speaking. The organization was a mess. Their team was terrible, languishing in 14th place in the conference. Worst of all, it didn't seem like there was any end in sight.
Suddenly, manager Darryl Sutter is fired and the ship righted itself almost immediately. The Flames have gone on an impressive run and are the hottest team in the Western Conference, going 8-0-2 in their last 10 games, vaulting them into a playoff spot, as they now sit 8th in the West. But they face a tough test tonight, as they come to Vancouver to play the league-leading Canucks.
And with that, tonight's game promises to be a fantastic game. As Jeff Paterson points out, in each of their last 22 games, the Canucks are 15-3-4 (34 pts) while the Flames are 14-3-5 (33). That's just six outright losses in 44 combined games for the two teams.
That said, tonight's game might actually cause the Flames some problems. The Flames played last night at home, losing in extra time to the Ducks. The Flames are 4-4-1 in the second half of back-to-back games. Compare that to the Canucks, who last played on Wednesday and are 8-2-1 when they have 2 days off. And while the Flames have improved, they're not exactly setting the standings on fire with their away record, as they are 12-12-5 away from the Saddledome, and they face the league's best home team as the Canucks are 19-4-5 and only lost their 4th regulation game at home Wednesday against the Ducks.
I expect the Canucks to get a massive lift emotionally tonight as they see the return of one of their longest serving warriors. Sami Salo returns to the lineup tonight after suffering a potentially career-ending Achilles injury in the off-season. And his return couldn't come at a better time, as the Canucks looks like a M*A*S*H* unit with Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler and Keith Ballard all out for extended periods of time. The Canucks already lethal power play will also see a boost, as Salo has been the team's power play quarterback for several years, and has arguably the team's biggest shot, behind Edler.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Watch the tape from the past two games. The Canucks outscored the Flames 10-3 in their last two meetings, and dominated play from start to finish. The Canucks know that they can beat the Flames, they've proven it. They simply need to enact the same game plan from their previous two encounters.
2. Control the puck by winning faceoffs. The Canucks are the league's best faceoff team at 55.5%, while the Flames are 25th at 48.1%. Time for the Canucks to play a little keep-away, especially with a banged up defense.
3. Pressure the defense at all time. Tonight's #1 objective is FORECHECKING. The Canucks need to put constant pressure on the Flames defense. First, it keeps them from feeding the puck up ice to their suddenly surging forwards. But most importantly, it keeps the Flames chasing. The Flames played last night, so anything that the Canucks can do to make the Flames skate more and harder, the better.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Flames @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Flames-Canucks Preview (CBS Sports)
3. Flames streak into town against Canucks (Toronto Sun)
4. Salo in, Hamhuis out for Canucks (CBC Sports)
5. FlamesNation.ca << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!