Camp Notes: What to watch for in Flames’ first pre-season game versus Canucks

CALGARY, CANADA - DECEMBER 14: Jonathan Huberdeau #10 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 14, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, CANADA - DECEMBER 14: Jonathan Huberdeau #10 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 14, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

Non-prospect Flames hockey is on TV and live at the Saddledome today – Calgary hosts Vancouver at 6:00 PM MT (Sunday, September 24th) in the first game of the pre-season.

Personally, I don’t put too much stock into pre-season games. I try not to get up for wins or down following losses in the pre-season and that line of thinking should be especially true this evening. Even though the Canucks are icing a much less experienced roster than the Flames, this will be the first time Huska’s on the bench as a head coach, the inaugural Flames coaching appearances for Dan Lambert and Marc Savard, and the players will be more focused on finding chemistry, implementing new systems, and getting up to regular season pace than earning two points that don’t exist.

With that said, don’t feed into the Canucks online trolls who will certainly come after Flames fans if Vancouver manages to win and don’t start planning the parade if Calgary wins their first pre-season game.

Rather, there are several areas of intrigue for Flames fans this evening that could be more telling of what’s to come than a mark in either the win or loss column.

Calgary Flames power play units and system under Marc Savard

Look for:

  • A first power play unit that has potential to be a regular fixture on the man advantage – Lindholm, Sharangovich, Huberdeau, Kadri, Andersson
  • Faster puck movement, offensive creativity, and dynamism with less focus on high shot volume

A potential Flames first line

If the Flames are going to have success this season, Jonathan Huberdeau needs to return to form. In order to make that happen, the coaching staff will need to find consistent linemates for number 10 with whom he will need to build chemistry from a comfortable spot on the left (not right) wing.

Look for:

  • Lindholm to centre to Huberdeau and newcomer Yegor Sharangovich
  • Flashes of chemistry among the three
  • Sharangovich’s impact
  • Smiles on the ice and on the bench; if they’re having fun, we could be heading the right direction

Prospects seeking roster spots with the Flames

Recently, I wrote that there are two forwards who control their futures (Matthew Coronato and Adam Ruzicka) and two bubble guys who could earn a spot (Connor Zary and Adam Klapka). All four are in the lineup in the tonight.

Look for:

  • Adam Ruzicka’s performance on what could be the Flames’ second line come the regular season (Ruzicka-Kadri-Dube)
  • Matthew Coronato to earn continued looks from management and coaching staff throughout the pre-season; Coronato will start the game slotted on the right wing of a line with Ben Jones and Dryden Hunt
  • Connor Zary and Adam Klapka to bring energy in the bottom six; we know Huska and his staff are looking for prospects like Zary and Klapka to bring youthful energy, which could be characterized by pace, solid forechecking/backchecking, and ideally some big body checks (especially from 6’8” Klapka)

Coronato will be wearing jersey number 39, Ruzicka will wear 63, 47 for Zary, and the massive man on the wing will be Adam Klapka in 43.

On the D side of things, three defencemen who could earn a sixth or seventh spot within the Calgary Flames D corps will be in the lineup:

  • Jordan Oesterle (#82)
  • Ilya Solovyov (#98)
  • Dennis Gilbert (#48)

Jacob Markstrom between the pipes

Look for:

  • Markstrom to play the whole game; Huska has mentioned he’s not too interested in game-splitting with his goalies, although tonight could be an opportunity for Dansk to get in a game depending on how the first half of the game goes for Markstrom
  • Rediscovered confidence, poise, and fun
    Early saves (making a few stops early could be genuinely beneficial for Markstrom)


More general than the previous areas, chemistry throughout the lineup will be key. This early in pre-season, coaches will be identifying forward combinations (pairs and trios) that click – even if only in flashes. On the back end, chemistry is vital, too – look for Oesterle to benefit from the famous Tanev bump and keep an eye on the third pairing of Solovyov and Gilbert to fit into an NHL lineup.

Letters (alternate captains)

No one will be wearing the “C” tonight, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Flames dress two or three alternate captains. With three of last seasons “A”s in the lineup (Huberdeau, Lindholm, Tanev), will they all have letters stitched on the sweaters tonight? Or will Rasmus Andersson get the chance to wear an “A” in the pre-season?

Zone coverage

It was well-documented that Darryl Sutter’s Flames were one of only a few teams playing a man-to-man system in their defensive zone last season. Under Huska, the Flames will be moving to zone defence. Keep your eyes peeled for a different brand of hockey when the Flames do not have the puck in their own end. I could write an entire article on the nuances of man-to-man versus zone coverage, the primary difference is that, in a zone system, players are responsible for defensive coverage of “areas” on the ice whereas man-to-man requires players to cover opposing bodies.

See the Flames’ roster and preview for tonight on

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