Dec 04, 2011; Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA; Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malholtra (27) and Calgary Flames forward Olli Jokinen (13) faceoff during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Canucks vs. Flames

Maybe this is what Derek Smith (left, with the well-timed headlock) is good for. Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight, the Calgary Flames (25-22-8) return home to welcome the Vancouver Canucks (34-15-5) to the Pengrowth Saddledome. So far this year, the Flames have dropped two out of three against the Canucks. Let’s look at their chances in this matchup.

It’s been a mixed week for our heroes in red. On the one hand, They DID pick up four points in three games, which isn’t the worst outcome for having three road games in four nights. On the other hand, two losses in overtime- including one to the 8th-place-in-the-West Phoenix Coyotes- means that they left points on the board, and gave up ground to a competitor for that playoff spot the Flames hope to snag. Even though the Flames are in 12th in the West currently, they’re only two points out of 8th- a couple wins here and there could change the fortunes in a very tough Western Conference. As for the Canucks, they’re finishing up a four game road trip, having won the first three.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Canucks lead their division with 73 points, and are second overall in the Western Conference. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin continue to lead the charge, and are 1-2 on the team in points, on a deep and talented Canucks roster. Seven different Canucks have more than 30 points, and seven have more than 10 goals- compare that to the Flames, who have three with 30 points, and a grand total of four 10-goal scorers.

With some key injuries up front for the Flames (as well as defenseman Derek Smith, curiously re-signed by the team earlier this week), this’ll be a tougher matchup than usual. They’ll need Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla to continue their excellent offensive play of late. Jokinen has had five goals and six assists in his last eight games (including a hat trick and an assist against the San Jose Sharks), finally showing the ability to be a #1 centre that the Flames anticipated he had when they first traded for him almost three years ago.

As with a lot of matchups for the Flames, they’ll want this to be a low-scoring game to pull out a victory- the Canucks can play a lot of different styles, but the Flames can’t match their offensive firepower. This has always been a heated rivalry, but the Canucks have had the edge in the last few years. With the playoffs out of reach at the moment, the Flames definitely want every win they can get.

Go Flames Go!

Tags: Calgary Flames Derek Smith Olli Jokinen Vancouver Canucks

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