Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pre-season preview: Battle of Alberta

"Hey, it's the biggest game of the season--absolutely," Eric Nystrom told the Calgary Herald about tonight's pre-season tilt against the rival Oilers. That may be a bit of a stretch, but for Nystrom, one of the few "veterans" skating in tonight's lineup, it's an opportunity to show the new bench boss what he's made of. The Flames will be icing a prospect-laden lineup when the puck drops in about an hour's time at the 'Dome, while the Oilers will dress a number of regulars in the first official Battle of Alberta of the new season. Here are the rosters and tentative line combinations for each team:

Jacques - Horcoff - Schremp
O'Sullivan - Comrie - Stone
Moreau - Potulny - Minard
Brennan - Paukovich - Stortini

Gilbert - Chorney
Plante - Strudwick
Staios - Arsene


Dawes- Boyd -Moss
Nystrom- Murray -Prust
Greentree- Lundmark- Chucko
Stuart- Jaffray -Cunning

Pelech- Pardy
Palin- Negrin
Stralman- Kronwall


The Flames' roster for tonight's game is interesting because it sets up the battles we'll likely be seeing throughout the pre-season for the bottom-six forward positions, seventh defenceman, and the one or two spots open in the top-six forward group. Out of the six defencemen in the lineup tonight, Pardy is the only one who has locked up a spot with the big club, while the most likely competitors for the opening at seventh defenceman are Kronwall and Stralman.

Dawes, Boyd, and Moss will all be competing for a chance to play on the top two lines, and players like Prust, Greentree, Jaffray, Lundmark, and even Nystrom will be vying for a spot on the third and fourth lines.

Given that the two goaltending jobs are already taken, the play of Keetley and Irving somewhat loses its significance, but a good showing with the Flames could earn one of them the starting job in Abbotsford. Competition in the Abbotsford crease heated up recently (pardon the pun) with the addition of David Shantz, whom the Flames signed to a minor-league contract.

Notable absences from tonight's game include: top prospect Mikael Backlund, comeback kid Theo Fleury, and summer acquisition Keith Seabrook. All will likely see some playing time, as the Flames still have six pre-season games on the schedule after tonight.

The game will be streaming live at http://flames.nhl.com/

I know it's only pre-season, but what kind of BOA would this be without a little bloodshed? Expect a brawl or two between the likes of Zac Stortini, Brandon Prust, Eric Nystrom, and Oilers prospect Kip Brennan as they look to make impressions on their respective clubs.

Good Luck, boys!

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