CALGARY, Alberta — The longest road trip of the season so far gets underway Saturday for the Rangers at one of the oldest arenas in the NHL, the Scotiabank Saddledome, which was built in 1983.
The press box, a sort of shaky gondola reached via catwalk, brings much trepidation to writers and broadcasters.
But regardless of the locale, much of this country will be watching, because the game is nationally televised as part of the weekly “Hockey Night in Canada” schedule.
The Flames have lost their last three games and are sixth in the Pacific Division with a 5-9-1 record, but the Rangers (10-4) vow not to take them lightly, having come off a disappointing 5-3 loss at home on Tuesday.
“We were flat,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “We’ve had a few days here, which is pretty rare, hopefully that refreshed everyone’s legs. We’ve played a lot of home games, and when you do that, you kind of get comfortable in what you’re doing. We’ve got to get it back to a simpler game.”
The Blueshirts are 2-2 on the road, which isn’t good enough for center Derek Stepan. “The 41 games that you are not at home, you have to find a way to have success,” he said. “We have three games in four nights against teams that we don’t see a whole lot. We have to be sharp from the puck drop.”
Brian Elliot is in the nets for the Flames; Henrik Lundqvist, who did not face Calgary last season, is between the pipes for the Rangers. Antti Raanta played both games last season, a 4-1 win at MSG on Oct. 25 and a 5-4 overtime loss here on Dec. 12.
Lundqvist last started here in a 5-2 win on Dec. 16, 2014. He stopped 29 shots and Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, who have been reunited as a line, scored four goals. Lundqvist has won three of his last four against the Flames.
Coach Alain Vigneault, who said that his team’s play has not been as sharp on both ends of the ice in the last few games, has shuffled his lines, defense pairs and power-play units.
Here’s the projected Rangers lineup:
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Pavel Buchnevich-Mika Zibanejad-Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-J.T. Miller
Michael Grabner-Brandon Pirri-Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Brady Skjei
Nick Holden-Kevin Klein
Henrik Lundqvist-Antti Raanta
The Flames, who want to play strong defense and make the Rangers attack “come through layers” according to coach Glen Gulutzan, are expected to counter with:
Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Alex Chiasson
Michael Ferland-Mikael Backlund-Michael Frolik
Hunter Shinkaruk -Sam Bennett-Troy Brouwer
Linden Vey-Matt Stajan-Freddie Hamilton
Mark Giordano-T.J. Brodie
Brett Kulak -Deryk Engelland
Dougie Hamilton-Dennis Wideman
Brian Elliot-Chad Johnson