NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, February 20th (All times eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (31-21-7) at Calgary Flames (30-22-8), 6 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The NHL's second outdoor game of the season will take place tonight in Calgary, as the Flames welcome the Montreal Canadiens for the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium.
Today's game marks the NHL's first regular-season outdoor game in Canada since the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Canadiens on Nov. 22, 2003. Montreal won that game by a 4-3 score in what was the first NHL regular season game to be played outdoors.
Of course, the 2003 Heritage Classic is the game that helped inspire the Winter Classic -- the outdoor game that the NHL has staged annually on New Year's Day beginning in 2008. However, the Winter Classic has not only never had a Canadian host, but there has also yet to be a team from Canada to play in the New Year's Day showcase.
This year's Winter Classic was hosted by Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, but the visiting Washington Capitals wound up winning the contest by a 3-1 score. That game had to be delayed several hours to deal with mild and rainy conditions, but the forecast for the Heritage Classic is calling for frigid and dry weather.
About 41,000 fans are expected to be on hand for today's contest between these interconference combatants.
"It will be a home game I guess because it's in Calgary," Flames captain Jarome Iginla recently told his team's web site. "But being a whole different rink and setting, it's a little bit different. It's like preparing for a road game."
The Flames visited Montreal earlier this season for an indoor battle at the Bell Centre on Jan. 17 and it wound up being a wild contest. P.K. Subban scored 66 seconds into overtime to help the Canadiens overcome blowing a four- goal lead and defeat the Flames, 5-4.
Montreal had lost three straight to the Flames prior to last month's win and Calgary has also taken five out of nine in the series.
Calgary and the Habs are both in the thick of their respective conference playoff races.
With 68 points, the Flames are locked in a four-way tie for the final three postseason berths in the West. Montreal has 69 points and is three ahead of the New York Rangers for the East's sixth seed. The Canadiens are also four points behind Boston for first place in the Northeast Division.
The Flames enter today riding a two-game win streak, while Montreal has dropped its last two outings.
Calgary followed up Monday's 9-1 win at Colorado with Wednesday's 4-2 victory over Dallas. Cory Sarich and Steve Staios both scored third-period goals as the host Flames rallied to defeat the Stars at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Olli Jokinen and Tom Kostopoulos also tallied for the Flames, while Miikka Kiprusoff turned away 22-of-24 shots in the win.
Montreal, meanwhile, lost a home shootout decision to Buffalo on Tuesday and then was dealt a 4-1 setback Thursday in Edmonton. Ales Hemsky tallied twice as Edmonton used a three-goal burst in the final period to take down Montreal at Rexall Place.
Jeff Halpern provided the sole offense for the Canadiens, who have also lost five of their last six games. Carey Price was tagged for three goals on 27 shots in the setback.
Both Kiprusoff and Price are expected to get the starts in net today at McMahon Stadium. Kiprusoff is 6-3-0 with a 2.85 goals-against average in 11 career games against the Canadiens.
Meanwhile, Price's only appearance against the Flames was in the memorable meeting between the clubs last month. Price relieved Alex Auld early in the third period of that contest and earned the win after stopping all four shots he faced in just over 18 minutes of action.
Staios is the only member of his team to have played in a regular-season outdoor game at the NHL level. He was a member of Edmonton when the Oilers lost the 2003 Heritage Classic to Montreal.
For the Canadiens, defenseman Jaroslav Spacek played for the Buffalo Sabres when they hosted Pittsburgh at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008. Fellow Habs defenseman James Wisniewski also skated for Chicago in 2009 when the Blackhawks hosted Detroit at Wrigley Field. However, Wisniewski is questionable for today's contest after suffering a cut under his left eye in Thursday's game against Edmonton.
Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri could be activated from injured reserve in time to play in today's contest. Cammalleri has been sidelined with a separated left shoulder since the middle of January.
Montreal defenseman Hal Gill is also expected to return from IR today after sitting out the last four games with an upper-body injury. Winger Mathieu Darche is also questionable with a groin injury.
02/20 11:13:50 ET