The Vancouver Canucks are back atop the NHL's Northwest Division and they will be aiming to increase their lead when they entertain the reeling Calgary Flames tonight at Rogers Arena. File: Chris Higgins #20 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with Derek Roy #15 and Jannik Hansen #36 after scoring on goalie Nikolai Khabibulin #35 of the Edmonton Oilers during third period of NHL action on April 04, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images
CALGARY FLAMES AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS
TONIGHT, 7 PM, ROGERS ARENA
TV: CBC. RADIO: TEAM 1040
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks are back atop the NHL's Northwest Division and they will be aiming to increase their lead when they entertain the reeling Calgary Flames tonight at Rogers Arena.
The Flames, who were sellers in the week leading up to Wednesday's trade deadline, have lost four in a row and 12 straight on the road. Calgary's last victory in an opponent's rink occurred Feb. 17 in Dallas. To make matters even better for the Canucks, the Flames are dead last in the NHL in team defence and they played - and lost - in San Jose on Friday night (2-1). They also had to travel post-game and will be suiting up for the third time in four nights in three different cities.
It looks like a 'gimme' for the Canucks but, naturally, they won't hear of it.
"Give the Flames a lot of credit," said Canuck assistant coach Rick Bowness following today's optional morning skate. "They had a bad game at home and lost 8-2 to the Oilers and then last night in San Jose, man, they played hard. I watched the game and they could have easily won against a team that is the hottest in the league right now in terms of victories. So regardless of where the Flames are in the standings and what they've done, you have to give them full marks for the way they played last night and that's how we expect them to play tonight."
The Canucks will make two lineup changes as left winger Mason Raymond (shoulder) will return and skate on the team's third line with Andrew Ebbett and Zack Kassian. Right winger Dale Weise (also shoulder) will start on the fourth line with Max Lapierre and Tom Sestito. Raymond missed two games while Weise missed six.
"It's always fun to get back in there," Raymond said. "I had a good couple of games rest and it helped me improve."
Raymond will take the spot created when rookie Nicklas Jensen was sent back Friday to the American League's Chicago Wolves.
Weise was expected to be out 2-4 weeks with a separation and today is exactly two weeks since his injury. He feels fortunate to have emerged on the low end of his predicted absence. He will take Steve Pinizzotto's spot in the lineup.
"I had the same injury back in junior and I was out maybe four or five weeks so for it to come around this quickly, I didn't expect that," Weise said. "I'm more than happy to get back in the lineup and, hopefully, help contribute. I took contact yesterday in practice, it responded well this morning so I'm good to go."
The Canucks are first in the Northwest with 46 points, two ahead of the suddenly slumping Minnesota Wild. They also sit third in the Western Conference playoff picture but eighth place St. Louis is only four points behind. Bowness insisted they are not taking a playoff position for granted.
"We haven't got in, we still don't have a spot," he noted. "So we're going to keep pushing until we get a spot and then we'll try to move up as far as we can."
The Flames, 14th in the Western Conference with 30 points, did not have a morning skate but did call up West Vancouver's Max Reinhart from the AHL's Abbotsford Heat. Max, the oldest of three hockey-playing Reinhart boys, will almost certainly make his NHL debut tonight. He has 21 points in 67 games with the Heat. Reinhart's dad Paul played for both the Flames and Canucks during an 11-year NHL career.
The goaltending matchup will feature Cory Schneider against Miikka Kiprusoff.
ICE CHIPS: The Flames are led in scoring by Mike Cammalleri with 26 points while Curtis Glencross leads in goals with 14... The Canucks and Flames are two of the NHL's worst faceoff teams and head into tonight's game tied for 27th at 47.2 per cent... The Flames' power play is eighth at 21.7 per cent while the Canucks are 28th at 13.1 per cent... Referees for tonight's game are Mark Joanette and Derek Nansen.
INJURIES: Flames D Derek Smith is out with a knee injury. Ryan Kesler (foot) and David Booth (ankle) remain out for the Canucks. D Keith Ballard (foot) is also out.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun