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Monday, September 14, 2015

Penticton 2015: Flames vs. Canucks Preview - Five Things to Watch

With a 1-1 record, Calgary wraps up the Young Stars tournament in Penticton this afternoon against the host team from Vancouver. The Flames and Canucks tangle at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 3:30 pm local time or 4:30 pm MT.

The Canucks looked dreadful in getting hammered 8-2 on Friday night but then they bounced back on Sunday to beat Winnipeg 4-1 to even their record at 1-1.

Before we get into the game, here is how the Flames are expected to line up:

Forwards

Andrew Mangiapane - Bill Arnold - Emile Poirier
Mason Marchment - Pavel Karnaukhov - Morgan Klimchuk
Bryce Van Brabant - Tyson Baillie - Austin Carroll
Julien  Proulx - Taylor Burke - Hunter Smith

Defence

Oliver Kylington - Kenney Morrison
Patrick Sieloff - Riley Bruce
Jason Bell - Eric Roy

Goaltenders

Jon Gillies
Nick Schneider


Five Things to Watch


1. Can Mangiapane Spark Poirier?

Andrew Mangiapane, the Flames sixth round pick three months ago, has been one of the club's pleasant surprises this tournament and has stood out with his speed and creativity. Bill Arnold has also been solid in both ends of the ice. The same cannot be said for Emile Poirier. It's not that the 20-year-old has been bad but as one of the most experienced guys in Penticton from an NHL games perspective and as someone the team has high expectations for, he has more blended in than stood out.

"Emile's got to fill a top six role. We want him to generate some offence and I don't think we've seen his best yet," said Ryan Huska on Monday morning. "We want him heading into camp feeling good about his game so he can make an impression in main camp. So this is an important afternoon for him, where we want him to be our key guy on the ice so we're going to look to him in key situations to see if he raises and elevates his game."

It's Poirier's first game without Sam Bennett, who was his centre in the first two games.


2. Will Morrison Look More Comfortable?

Not in the line-up for game 1, 23-year-old defenceman Kenney Morrison made his debut against the Oilers in game 2 and it looked like there was some rust.

"Kenny's game kind of snowballed on him. He made a few mistakes early and had a hard time getting his game back," said Huska, reflecting on his performance on Saturday.

Morrison also got injured late last year after he had gone to the AHL on a try-out and as a result missed time while he was rehabbing. Thus, going into this weekend, it's been a long time since he's played in a competitive situation.

I wrote a feature about Morrison earlier in the summer that you can read here that gets into how he nearly gave up on hockey when he was 17. To skip ahead in the story, after being a late bloomer, he found his way to Western Michigan and by his third NCAA season, he was a much sought-after free agent with the Flames being the NHL club he chose to sign with.

"He's a guy that we're going to look to to elevate his play as well and I think today we'll see a much better game from him where he'll be more composed and confident with the puck," said Huska. "We'll give him a pass for (his first game) but I'm sure we'll see much better today."

He'll look to bounce back on a pairing with the much talked about Oliver Kylington.


3. Klimchuk and Kylington Back From Injury

The minor injuries for Morgan Klimchuk and Oliver Kylington -- picked up in game 1 -- were minor but it has prevented either player thus far from being able to make an impression in Penticton. And going into this tournament, one would have expected both players to have made an impression.

Klimchuk is trying to demonstrate that he's ready to move on to the AHL. An overage year in Brandon looms if he cannot separate himself in the next couple weeks and prove that he's ready to take his game to the AHL. He gets Mason Marchment (on a PTO) as his opposite winger with 2015 fifth round pick Pavel Kaurnakhov as his centre. Kaurnakhov has looked good at times but it's not exactly a marquee line for Klimchuk to ride shotgun on so he'll need to be the initiator.

Kylington, of course, is still in a situation where we're not sure where he'll end up -- Stockton or Brandon with the pros and cons of each outlined here. I would guess Kylington will get a couple NHL preseason games to strut his stuff but there will also be a lot of defencemen in Calgary's camp that need minutes so he best not wait for that moment to start stating his case that Stockton is the best non-NHL destination for him.


4. Gillies Back Between the Pipes

Jon Gillies was very good against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night, only beaten once on 26 shots. He'll look to build on that first impression by turning in another solid effort for as long as he's in the game. WHLer Nick Schneider, who was ranked but went undrafted in June and is in rookie camp camp on a try-out, is scheduled to play the third period.

With the goaltending decisions that need to happen in Calgary and only eight preseason games to figure it out -- if you want to do that before the regular season begins -- it's hard to see Gillies getting much playing time in the NHL preseason as Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio will all need chances to showcase themselves and get themselves prepared for October. Thus, Gillies best take advantage of every chance he does get to be in the crease prior to main camp such as this afternoon.


5. Last Chance to Make a First Impression

As a general rule, all players that come to a rookie tournament do so with the expectation that they will get to play at least one game. Call it a courtesy but it's also one of the things that sometimes teams need to agree to with a player's agent in advance in order to coax a particular player to come to their rookie camp (or even their development camp).

Playing their first game tonight will be Mason Marchment, big winger Julien Proulx, tall Riley Bruce -- seventh round draft pick in June, Jason Bell and Eric Roy, who the Flames drafted but didn't re-sign, but is here now on a try-out.

As it stands, it appears that the only player from the roster of 31 that came to Penticton, who will not get into a game is Czech right-winger Tomas Soustal, who played for the Kelowna Rockets last year. He's at rookie camp on a try-out.

Of note, Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke will be at the finale so you know he'll be expecting intensity and physicality so we'll see if some of the youngsters deliver on that. Proulx, Patrick Sieloff, Bryce Van Brabant are all guys capable of being hard to play against. Poirier can be an agitator too and tonight wouldn't be a bad time for him to show that quality, which needs to be a key ingredient in his game for him to be most effective.


Later tonight or early Tuesday morning, look for my 10 impressions on what we saw in the final game including quotes from the dressing room.

In case you missed them, here are links to my recaps from the first two games:



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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