Flames-Capitals Preview

With several familiar faces no longer around, the Calgary Flames
could be in for a bumpy ride this season.

The Washington Capitals already experienced some turmoil in
their opener.

The Flames try to avoid a fourth consecutive season-opening loss
Thursday night against the Capitals, who are hoping to bring a
better effort on home ice.

After trading away longtime captain Jarome Iginla before last
season’s deadline, Calgary officially lost former Vezina Trophy
winner Miikka Kiprusoff to retirement last month. Forward Alex
Tanguay and defenseman Cory Sarich are also gone, leaving the
Flames in a state of uncertainty.

“We’re going to play hard. We’re going to compete hard,” general
manager Jay Feaster told the team’s official website. “We’re going
to go out there with the expectation of winning. We are not going
to go out with the expectation of, ‘Oh, we’re young,’ or, ‘Oh,
we’re rebuilding and therefore results don’t matter.’ Results do
matter.”

Calgary will be counting on contributions from newcomers David
Jones, Shane O’Brien, and T.J Galiardi, along with Karri Ramo, who
was signed to help fill Kiprusoff’s void. Ramo, though, hasn’t
appeared in the NHL since going 4-10-7 for Tampa Bay in
2008-09.

Veteran defenseman Mark Giordano was named team captain.

“Mark represents all the qualities that we set as a coaching
staff and an organization,” said coach Bob Hartley, who guided the
club to a 19-25-4 record in his first season behind the bench in
2012-13.

“He is a quality man who is proud to represent the Calgary
Flames both on and off the ice. We are very happy with (him)
setting the example for our team, and especially our young players,
as we move through this crucial yet exciting period in the history
of the Flames franchise.”

The Flames have been outscored by a combined 13-4 score in
losing their last three season openers.

The Capitals (0-1-0), meanwhile, had the unenviable task of
opening their season Tuesday at Chicago after the Blackhawks raised
their Stanley Cup championship banner. Mikhail Grabovski’s third
goal of the game early in the third period gave Washington a 4-3
lead, but Chicago scored three unanswered en route to a 6-4
victory.

“We need to learn from our mistakes what we did,” Grabovski
said. “We just need to play better the next game.”

Braden Holtby, who went 9-1-0 in his final 10 regular-season
games last year, stopped 29 of 34 shots. The Saskatchewan native,
though, took solace in the team’s performance against the defending
Stanley Cup champs.

“Any time you face a team of that caliber, it’s good,” Holtby
told the team’s official website. “It’s a good measuring stick. And
we know we can stick with them.

“That’s about as much confidence as we can get out of a loss as
possible. We know we can stay with the Blackhawks, so we know we
can take it to most of the other teams in the league and win a lot
of games this season.”

The Capitals are 7-2-0 with one tie against the Flames since
2002, and at least one of their players is especially excited about
this showdown.

“Obviously I’ve grown up watching them since I was a little guy.
I definitely have sort of a nostalgic, sensitive spot there with
Calgary,” defenseman and Calgary native Mike Green said.

“It should be a good game; we’re excited. (Tuesday) night was an
intense game; the energy was through the roof. The speed was as
fast as I’ve ever seen it. It made for a good game. We obviously
didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but we feel we’re playing good
hockey. So we’re excited to play (Thursday) night.”

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist Tuesday and has six goals
with six assists in six career matchups versus Calgary.

The Capitals had won 10 straight home openers before falling 4-2
to Winnipeg last season.