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.