Scenes from morning skate: Lindholm and Kuzmenko face former teams for first time as Canucks host Flames

Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
28 days ago
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The Vancouver Canucks (44-18-8) shoot for their third straight victory when they host Andrei Kuzmenko and the Calgary Flames (33-30-5) tonight. While one of the Canucks’ nearest geographic rivals, the Flames are the only visiting NHL team that has yet to make an appearance at Rogers Arena this season.

What we saw

Elias Lindholm, who missed practice on Friday to rest an undisclosed nagging ailment, was one of a number of Canucks to take part in an optional skate this morning. The veteran centre who spent parts of six seasons in Calgary will suit up tonight for the first time against his former team. Lindholm, who has 4+4=8 in 21 games with the Canucks  had 3+2=5 in two games with the Flames against Vancouver earlier this season. 
Rick Tocchet confirmed there will be no line-up changes for his group. That means Casey DeSmith makes his fifth straight start in goal and Noah Juulsen stays in on defence in place of Ian Cole who will sit out for a second consecutive game.
The Canucks are coming off a 4-1 win over Montreal on Thursday. Nikita Zadorov had a pair of goals while Conor Garland and Nils Aman scored the others. Garland has scored in back to back games and four of his last eight. 
On Tuesday, the Canucks held Buffalo to just 17 shots on goal. On Thursday, they limited Montreal to that same total including just three shots over the final 20 minutes. 
Since taking the reins from an injured Thatcher Demko, Casey DeSmith is 2-1-1 with a 2.00 GAA and a .912 save percentage. He’s 3-1-1 in his last five starts allowing 10 goals over that span.
The Canucks have scored first in six straight games and in all five games on their current nine-game homestand. They have outscored opponents 9-0 in first periods on the homestand.
Vancouver’s power play will have a challenge on its hands facing Flames penalty killing that is tied for fourth in the league (83.4%) and is second in the NHL on the road (86.0%).
The Flames have been idle since a 5-2 loss to Washington on Monday. They have dropped four of their last six games to fall out of playoff contention. That stretch has left Calgary 10 points behind Vegas for the second Wild Card spot in the West with 14 games to play.
Blake Coleman and Yegor Sharangovich share the team lead with 28 goals while Nazem Kadri is the Flames scoring leader with 59 points. MacKenzie Weeger is fourth among NHL defencemen with 16 goals on the season and leads all blueliners with 15 even-strength markers. 
The Flames were active ahead of the NHL trade deadline shipping pending unrestricted free agents Elias Lindholm to Vancouver, Chris Tanev to Dallas and Noah Hanafin to Vegas. Andrei Kuzmenko, picked up as part of a package for Lindholm, has five goals and eight points in 15 games since being acquired by the Flames at the All Star break. Tonight marks his return to Rogers Arena. 
Another former Canuck, Jacob Markstrom, is having a solid season in the Calgary net. He’s been out for a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury but is expected to make his first start tonight since March 9th. On the season, Markstrom is 22-17-2 with a 2.68 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
These teams have split their two meetings so far this season, with the Flames winning 5-2 and the Canucks posting a 4-3 victory – both games at the Saddledome. The Flames will be back at Rogers Arena for the Canucks home finale on April 16th.
Tonight’s referees: Corey Syvret & Tom Chmielewski
Tonight’s broadcast crew: Harnarayan Singh and Gregg Millen on Hockey Night in Canada. Canucks forward Conor Garland is the After Hours guest

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on new-look Flames after deadline fire sale: “They’ve had a few changes. They’ve got some other guys in the line-up looking to impress the coach. It’s one of those things. Markstrom is starting. He’s a hell of a goalie.”
Rick Tocchet on building on 4-1 win over Montreal on Thursday: “That third period against Montreal, I thought we played really well without the puck. I thought we managed the game really well. I thought us locking the game – that’s the attitude you have to have, especially at this time of year. I’m seeing a little more maturity the last four or five games.”
Elias Lindholm on facing the Flames for the first time as a Canuck: “It will be fun. Obviously, I spent a lot of time there and have a lot of friends there. I had a lot of good years in Calgary. It will always be a special place in my heart. Probably be a little bit different going back to Calgary, but this is a mini step. It’ll be fun to be out there battling and see all those faces again.”
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