Calgary Flames face playoff nemesis Colorado Avalanche in season-opener

CALGARY — By design or coincidence, NHL schedulers injected an extra dose of drama in the Calgary Flames’ season-opener.

Calgary’s first opponent of the 2019-20 season is the Colorado Avalanche, a team that conjures unpleasant memories for the Flames and their fans.

To say Colorado upset Calgary, the Western Conference’s top team last season, in the first round of the playoffs is an understatement.

The Avs hit the post-season at a gallop to claim a wild-card berth and trampled the Flames in five games.

Colorado put an exclamation mark on Calgary’s ejection with a 5-1 win at the Saddledome in Game 5.

How much carry over the Flames feel heading into Thursday’s game at the Pepsi Center in Denver depends on who you ask.

“I still have that really, really fresh in my memory and didn’t forget about that all summer,” Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk declared.

“Not just that they’re the team that put us out, but the way our season ended just in the blink of an eye. We want to try to get them back for making us have a long summer.”

Winger Johnny Gaudreau would rather start the season with a mental clean slate.

“New year, new start,” said Calgary’s top point-producer last season. “Obviously last season, gone and past.

“We want to get off on the right foot by having a big game in Colorado and then coming home and playing well here.”

The Flames retained the majority of player personnel from their 107-point season, while adding former Edmonton Oilers forwards Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder and goaltender Cam Talbot.

Colorado GM Joe Sakic undertook roster renovations on a squad that went 38-30-14 and bowed out of the playoffs in a seven-game series with the San Jose Sharks in the second round..

Getting forwards Nazem Kadri from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals via trades, as well as signing Joonas Donskoi as a free agent were significant Avalanche alterations.

The newcomers are expected to provide goal support for captain and top-line centre Nathan MacKinnon, who was a one-man wrecking crew against the Flames last spring with three goals and five assists.

While Flames captain Mark Giordano acknowledges there’s no getting away from memories of the Avs ousting his team so quickly just a few months ago, there’s motivation aplenty in simply getting a win Thursday off an Avalanche team touted as a Stanley Cup contender in 2020.

“I think it’s definitely going to bring back some bad memories,” Giordano said. “That’s the team you lost to. Your season was ended by them.

“I think they’ve made more changes than us to be honest, but they still obviously have their big, top line and core guys.

“They’re expected to be one of the better teams in the league. I’ve seen people predicting they’re going to win the west. It’s going to be a fun game.”

Calgary’s 22-player opening day roster is one short of the limit of 23.

Flames GM Brad Treliving acknowledged that is a product of zero salary-cap space, but he also didn’t want to prevent a young player like forward Dillon Dube — who made last year’s first-day roster at age 20 — from getting more playing minutes with the AHL’s Stockton Heat.

Calgary’s pre-season trip to China for two games against the Boston Bruins last year was thought to be a key bonding experience that factored into the Flames’ most successful regular season since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989.

Flames players, coaches and team personnel squeezed in a two-day retreat in the mountains of Kananaskis west of Calgary earlier this week.

In addition to outdoor activities in copious amounts of snow, Treliving said there were also discussions about simultaneously letting go of, but learning from, last season’s playoff disappointment.

“We spent the weekend in about three feet of snow … and we kind of parked last year,” Treliving said.

“It’s only valuable if you use that experience. I have learned in life that sometimes you get a good, cold slap (and) it helps you every now and again.

“I think our group has taken that experience, has drawn from it, they’re a motivated group, but time will tell at the end of the day.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer man arrested for break and enters in Innisfail

Innisfail RCMP thank public for their help

WATCH: Update from Prime Minister Trudeau

April 6 briefing from Ottawa

Application process for emergency benefits for workers begins this morning

OTTAWA — Applications open today for the new federal emergency aid benefit… Continue reading

Work camp operator filling need for COVID-19 field hospitals, testing centres

CALGARY — A Calgary company says it has received more than 100… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer emergency call centre hours change starting next week

Hours at the City of Red Deer’s COVID-19 emergency call centre will… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Powell hopes to compete for Canada after promising NBA season cut short

Dwight Powell was enjoying a season unlike any other. His Dallas Mavericks… Continue reading

Raptors coach Nurse ‘100 per cent’ committed to Canada’s push for Olympic spot

TORONTO — Three weeks into global basketball’s shutdown, Nick Nurse isn’t just… Continue reading

Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival postponed to fall, Jazz Festival cancelled

Montreal’s renowned Just for Laughs Festival has been pushed to the fall… Continue reading

Queen delivers message of hope to UK amid virus outbreak

Britain needed a message of hope Sunday. The queen delivered it. Queen… Continue reading

Quebec Walmart worker struck by driver allegedly angered by COVID-19 measures

SHERBROOKE, Que. — A Walmart security guard from southern Quebec was fighting… Continue reading

Boeing to continue production shutdown due to coronavirus

Company is extending its planned two-week shutdown

Most Read