November 05 2010 02:20PM
Both Steinberg and Lambert are out of comission today (drinking and freebasing heroine, respectively I assume), so this post will pair as the FGD and gamethread.
The Flames are in Minnesota tonight (6:00pm SNETW, FAN960) and will perform in front of a fanbase equally as rabid and weary of mediocrity as Flames fans. Wild fans are long suffering and the changes promised by sweeping out the prior regime have been rather minor and haven't delivered Minnesota from their fate of being perpetually middling. Robert details their current struggles below.
Steady Steve Staios draws back into the active roster because...well, I don't know. Everything about Staios' presence on this team is a mystery, right down to him being acquired in the first place, so I'll continue to not understand his pulling on a Flames uniform for as long as it continues.
Curtis Glencross is also out, reportedly with a minor injury and Stefan Meyer will draw back in to take his place. The lines in practice this morning settled into familiar patterns otherwise:
I'm not certain of the d-pairings, but according to Inside the Flames, Staios may patrol the third pairing with Sarich:
These are sensible groupings and the issue of match-ups isn't as pressing against Minnesota. They have one heavy hitter in Koivu and another sort of one in Havlat (who was killing things in CHI but has been various flavors of meh since signing with the Wild).
According to Mike Russo, The Wild's units will look like this tonight:
Yeeeeeiiiikes. I have all kinds of time for Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak, as long as they are bottom-six role players and aren't being tasked to carry the offensive mail. And John Madden is a capable enough checking center, but asking him yo get anything done with Eric Nystrom (god love him) and Casey Wellman (who?) is a tall order. Their 4th unit probably wouldn't even be a top line in the AHL.
This line-up is obviously the result of some injuries (Kobasew, Bouchard, Latendresse and Mietinen are all hurt), but the make-up of the squad overall doesn't help things either.
On the back-end the Wild are a bit stronger, with Burns, Shultz, Zanon, Barker, Zidlicky making up the core. Burns in particular is a legit talent whenever he's actually healthy, so keep an eye on him.
The Flames have lost three in a row and blood pressures are really starting to rise in town despite the calender. Part of that is rabidness of the market, of course, but another large portion is the manner in which the organization fell on it's face last year and then went about re-establishing the status quo during the off-season (outside of some tinkering with the scouting department, hiring a psychologist *cough* and bringing in Feaster to deal with the press that is). Like the mediocre student who every summer swears he'll strive for high marks when the new school year roles around, aspirations for a step forward were high in town come October. However, after rolling to a .500 record through a relatively soft schedule, there's the encroaching but familiar doubt that this team is, again, a 'C' student.
A win tonight will probably just hold the doubts at bay. A loss and the faint sound of torches and pitch forks being readied will begin to gain volume.
One of the few games I attended in person last year was one in December against the Wild. The Flames were still hanging around near the top of the division despite some shoddy underlying numbers and expectations of hammering an apparently discombulated Minny team were high.
What happened instead was thrashing in fact (if not in score). The Wild ran things in the Flames own building and outshot them more than 2-1 if I recall correctly. The final tally was 2-1 or 3-1 in favor of the visitors, but could have been a far sounder beating had pucks bounced in a different manner. I remember that game as one of the first true indications that all wasn't right with the club last year.
Here's hoping we can avoid that sort of outcome this evening.