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.
The Associated Press News Service
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