It'll take something special

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

As much as John Hufnagel is trying to get his Calgary Stampeders prepared for the regular-season opener, make no mistake about the goal in tonight's pre-season finale.

However, most of the talent evaluation will be done on third downs.

Jobs are still on the line when the Stamps take on the B.C. Lions tonight in Vancouver (8 p.m., QR77 Radio), although the lineup is close to being set.

The offence is stable, thanks to some questions being answered along the line, and the defence is starting to take shape.

If someone on the bubble wants to make a strong impression, better special-teams work would be a good place to start.

"I told the players that everyone going is still being evaluated," Hufnagel said.

"I have to decide who those guys are that will make this football team. They can make it in more than one area because special teams is such an important things in the CFL.

"I need to find out who my special teams players are in this game. From there, I will decide the other part of the evaluation in terms of how they played their position."

In last Friday's pre-season opener against the visiting Edmonton Eskimos, the Stamps didn't exactly excel on special teams, despite dominating in every other area.

There was some confusion in the first half when lining up for field goals. There were no big returns -- although Noel Prefontaine shanked a couple of punts -- and punt coverage wasn't great.

The worst play came late when Tristan Jackson ran back a kick 92 yards for a touchdown to finally put the Eskimos on the board.

One could chalk that up to new Stampeders players being in spots they weren't used to, but Hufnagel doesn't buy that.

"You are always disappointed when you give up a big play like that," Hufnagel said. "Hopefully it's a learning experience and we don't have to witness that during the course of the season.

"There is really no excuse for it. You have to stay in your lanes, keep your leverage and make a tackle."

Hufnagel said he's a big believer in using the pre-season to work out the kinks with the starters ahead of when the wins and losses count, so he's taking the majority of his veterans to Vancouver tonight.

Henry Burris will start and see significant playing time, but Hufnagel wouldn't say what the pivot rotation would be -- only confirming more than one would play.

The only established veteran left behind will be right tackle Jeff Pilon, who is a bit hobbled by a twisted ankle.

But Pilon's wife is expecting the couple's second child any moment now and Hufnagel wants him to be there for it.

The final tuneup is a preview of next Thursday's season-opener in Calgary, so Burris wants to get into a rhythm to avoid a slow start.

"Going against B.C., there are things we want to see from them in terms of what they are doing," Burris said. "They should throw some different things at us and we have to make the right adjustments, picking up stunts and blitzes."

"We will see them in a week, so we don't need to show them too much, just as they won't to us. It's a chess match right now to see what they are doing and what we can do to beat it."


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