October 28 2010 11:48AM
He's Craig Conroy. He's played in 497 career games with the Calgary Flames, and tonight he'll be honored for playing game number 1000 of his NHL career. It's the overwhelming storyline heading into Calgary's tenth game of the season, a meeting with their Northwest Division rivals in the Colorado Avalanche (7:30 pm, TSN and The FAN 960).
It's F'in Game Day for the Flames, game three of a five game home stand, and a night all about #24, and for good reason. He's been nothing but a quality human being off the ice, and been pretty darn good on the ice as well. The Flames look to extend their win streak to a season-high four games, against a team that gave them fits at the 'Dome last season.
Henrik Karlsson gets the start in net for the Flames, his second of the season, coming off a relatively easy 6-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in his first appearance on Friday night. It's a move I don't really have a problem with, as the Flames don't play back to back games until later in November, when they go on their road trip through the eastern United States. Miikka Kiprusoff's record against the Avalanche isn't overly strong, and if you want Karlsson to take a significant load off of the number one, you can't go weeks between starts. This one wouldn't necessarily bother me.
Niklas Hagman did not skate this morning and he is a gametime decision. Head Coach Brent Sutter called it maintenance issues, so we'll wait and see. Brett Sutter is seemingly on standby, so check back on Twitter during warmup to see who's going and who isn't. Here are lines if Hagman plays...
Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Curtis Glencross-Mikael Backlund-Brendan Morrison
Craig Conroy-Stefan Meyer-Tim Jackman
On the blueline, it looks like Brendan Mikkelson will slot back in for the Flames, as the pairings were jumbled up. Mikkelson looks to play with Cory Sarich while things looked like this at morning skate:
Jay Bouwmeester-Robyn Regehr
Mark Giordano-Ian White
Cory Sarich-Brendan Mikkelson
The Avalanche enter action minus their number one goaltender, as Craig Anderson left Colorado's game Tuesday in Vancouver with a knee injury suffered in warmup. Peter Budaj played instead, as the Avs fell 4-3 in overtime to the Canucks. The good news for Colorado is that Anderson won't need surgery, as Head Coach Joe Sacco updated his status yesterday. Anderson will be out indefinetely, but not as long as first thought. John Grahame has been pegged as Colorado's backup for the time being.
Here are projected line combinations for tonight:
Chris Stewart-Paul Stastny-T.J. Galiardi
David Jones-Matt Duchene-Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnick-Ryan O'Reilly-Brandon Yip
David van der Gulik-Phillippe Dupuis-Cody McLeod
Scott Hannan-Ryan Wilson
John-Michael Liles-Kyle Quincey
Jonas Holos-Kyle Cumiskey
The story is very clear, and his name is Craig Conroy. The team will hold a special presentation prior to the 7:30 start, and the reaction is expected to be rather loud. Conroy is beloved in this city, and whether you appreciate what he does on the ice or not, everyone appreciates what he's meant to this city. 1000 games is a very impressive accomplishment, and it was cool to see Daymond Langkow and Jarome Iginla get honored on 'Dome ice last season.
Why is Conroy so appreciated by fans of this team? Well, it's pretty simple...the personality that is seen in public is the exact same personality when there's no cameras or microphones around. He's a genuine guy who loves playing hockey, and who loves playing in this city. His desire to play in Calgary was very clear following the end of last season, when he was asked if he wanted to return to Calgary. The response was instant and pretty convincing. I know that some are not huge on him being on this team right now, but I still think his two way ability is needed on this team right now.
As for the game itself, it's the first meeting between the teams this season. Last year was a very frustrating season series for the majority for Calgary. They lost the opening four games of the season, including three at the Saddledome before finally winning the final two meetings of the season, both in Denver. Some of those Calgary losses were rather frustrating to watch, with Calgary carrying the play but not being able to finish off chances and running into a red hot Anderson. Plus, the Avalanche got some rather good puck luck throughout the year last year.
Calgary has scored the first goal in six of their first nine games, and have won five of those six games.
If the Flames were to win tonight, it would be the third best start in franchise history at 7-3. Twice Calgary has started 7-2-1 (last season and 2001-02).