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Five things to watch when the Calgary Flames take on the Vancouver Canucks:
1. Vancouver's dynamic duo
Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser garner a ton of attention – deservedly so. They're legitimately one of the better offensive duos in the game. In 315 minutes of 5v5 ice together, they've controlled 52.23% of the shot attempts and helped the Canucks out-score opponents 23-9. Even though a high on-ice shooting percentage has helped the cause, they deserve a lot of credit for such a remarkable differential.
Beyond Pettersson and Boeser, who rank 1st and 2nd on the team in 5v5 goals and points per game, the Canucks really don't have many weapons in their lineup. If the Flames can limit the damage they cause, they'll have a good chance of coming out on top in this one. Easier said than done, of course.
2. Attacking on the PK
Calgary's ability to generate offense while down a man is matched by few, if any, teams in the league. That could come in handy tonight against a Vancouver side that is susceptible to blunders on the power play. They rank 26th in expected goals against per 60 and only eight teams have given up more shorthanded markers. The Flames are quick to pounce on any opportunities they get. Against the Canucks, there could be a few.
3. Extra PP reps
The Flames are very good at drawing penalties. The best, even. They've drawn 230 minors this season, which leads the league. Their ability to draw calls could become very problematic for the Canucks tonight. On the year, the Canucks have taken 214 minors. Only four teams – Washington, Colorado, Montreal, and New York (R) – have been more undisciplined. If the first 50+ games are any indication, the Flames should be in plenty of extra-man situations tonight. That bodes well for their chances of winning the special teams battle, especially if they generate looks at close to the rate they did against San Jose last time out.
4. David Rittich's response
Last game did not go well for Rittich. He allowed a very soft goal to get things started and, in quick succession, handed the Sharks another. Rather than allow Rittich to fight through early mistakes, as Bill Peters has so often done for Mike Smith, he was yanked from the game. Will Rittich shake it off and bounce back, or will Peters' quick pull impact his confidence and, thus, performance? The answer will play in a big role in determining the outcome of this game.
5. Mark Giordano's hot streak
He has played fantastically all season long but, somehow, his level of performance has gone up a notch of late. Over the last 10 games, Giordano leads the Flames in points (14), shots (29), attempts (71), and Corsi (57.73 CF%). The Flames have hit a minor bump in the road – they've dropped two of three and have been outshot by decent margins in three of the last four – and the Captain seems as likely as any to step up and help get the team back on track.
Here are the projected lineups:
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - James Neal
Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson
Vancouver (via dailyfaceoff.com)
Markus Granlund - Bo Horvat - Josh Leivo
Nikolay Goldobin - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel - Brandon Sutter - Jake Virtanen
Loui Eriksson - Jay Beagle - Tyler Motte
Chris Tanev - Erik Gudbranson
Ben Hutton - Troy Stecher
Derrick Pouliot - Alex Biega
Puck drop is just after 10:00 eastern and can be seen on CBC, City TV, and every Sportsnet imaginable.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey
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