Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers (-104, 5.5.)
The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers don’t have a whole lot in common besides the province they reside in. The Oilers are rebuilding and will rely on untested youngsters while the Flames are hoping their grizzled group of veterans can squeak out one last good season.
Calgary GM Darryl Sutter took some heat for bringing back Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay, two players who did not play up to expectations in their previous stints with the franchise.
So why does Calgary’s management team think a Jokinen-Tanguay-Jarome Iginla top line will fix the club’s offensive woes?
“The whole lynchpin was Tanguay,” Flames assistant GM Jay Feaster told NHL.com. “One of the big problems was Olli tried to become something he’s not and that’s a playmaker. He and Jarome are both shooters. Putting them together, he (Jokinen) felt he had to set up Jarome. But bringing in Tanguay, he’s the playmaker and that’s what they felt they needed for both guys.”
We’ll believe it when we see it.
This much we do know: Calgary is so banged up at centre (Daymond Langkow and Matt Stajan are both out with injuries), Sutter had to sign 35-year-old Brendan Morrison as a stopgap.
We’ll take the scrappy Oilers in their first home game of the season.
Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs (-129, 5.5)
Nothing starts off the hockey season quite like a clash between two of the game’s biggest rivals.
The Leafs got off to a terrible start last season, losing 12 of their first 13 games, and were basically eliminated from playoff contention after a couple of weeks of play. So they know just how important it is to get off to a good start.
“I’ve overheard our players talking about (that start),” Toronto GM Brian Burke told the media on Monday. “They’re fully cognizant of how that start buried us last year. Reaching the playoffs, it’s too tough to dig that kind of hole. The gas you’re going to expend to get to level ground is going to do you in anyway.
“At one point we were three points out in December, but we had expended so much energy to get back in the hunt, that we had no chance.”
Burke addressed a few of the teams’ shortcomings by acquiring veteran goalie Jean-Sébastien Giguère, who replaced struggling netminder Vesa Toskala, and physical defenseman Dion Phaneuf at the end of last season. Those additions should give Toronto’s special teams a boost. The team had the worst power play and penalty kill in the league last season.
The Canadiens surprised everyone last year by making it all the way to the Eastern Conference final. They did so in large part thanks to incredible performances by goalie Jaroslav Halak and center Mike Cammalleri, who led all scorers with 13 postseason goals.
Carey Price is now the main guy in net for Montreal, but he might not even be able to play Thursday because of the flu, leaving backup Alex Auld to face the Leafs.
Cammalleri will also have to miss the season opener after being suspended for one game for slashing rookie Nino Niederreiter in Saturday’s exhibition tilt against the Islanders.
Pick: Maple Leafs