Fans of the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks who are starving for some hockey will be able to get their fill tonight when the Flames and Canucks play a split-squad double-header of exhibition games. Calgary fans can head down to the Saddledome for 7:00 PM MST while the game in Vancouver has puck-drop slated for a 8:00 PM MST start. Captain Jarome Iginla will not be in either lineup as he continues to recover from the back spasms he suffered in practice on Sunday. With or without the captain the pre-season allows for teams to get a good look at young players and the Flames will be featuring a handful of youngsters hoping to make an impression throughout the exhibition schedule. Ryan Howse, Greg Nemisz, TJ Brodie will be in Calgary tonight while the likes of Roman Horak, Patrick Holland, Leland Irving and 2011 first-round pick Sven Baertschi will be in Vancouver.
It will also be the frist chance to check out some of the Flames off-season acquisitions such as forwards Lee Stempniak and Paul Byron and defensemen Scott Hannan and Chris Butler. Stempniak is coming off an excellent season in which he posted career-highs with 28 goals and 58 points in 80 games split between Toronto and Phoenix. He has been brought in to provide a much needed scoring punch up front on one of the Flames top two lines giving the club an added scoring threat within their top 6. On the downside of a solid career, the 32-year-old Hannan has been a steadfast defensive rearguard throughout his 11 NHL seasons and will give the Flames more of a shut-down presence to compliment the offensive abilities of Jay Boumeester, Mark Giordano and the aforementioned TJ Brodie should he make the opneing night roster.
The first game of the year brings a host of things to look for but regardless of whether you are eager to see the youngsters, the newcomers or the veterans; one thing we all look forward to seeing is the excitement and optimism of a fresh start and a new season.