FGD: Three's Company!

Pat Steinberg
December 18 2010 02:23PM

If there was ever a chance for the Calgary Flames to get on a nice little winning streak (longer than two), now would be the time, with a trio of games coming up where the Flames have winning records against the opponents.  That starts tonight against the Minnesota Wild, the first of a home and home set with their division rival (8pm, CBC and The FAN 960).

Calgary's schedule sees them play Minnesota, Minnesota and Columbus over the next four days, and this could be one of the biggest stretches of the season.  After winning consecutive games for the first time since late October on Thursday night, the team needs to find ways to win some more games.  Their goal is to be at or above the .500 mark before Christmas; it's very much doable, sitting one game below right now, so go out and do it.

The Lineup

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 03:  Curtis Glencross #20 of the Calgary Flames during play against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on February 3, 2009 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
 

Who knows anymore.  Calgary sat Curtis Glencross on Thursday night and didn't seem to really miss him in that game, but that's against a dismal Maple Leafs team.  To be honest, i think Glencross was sat for one reason on Thursday: to send a message and piss him off.  Curtis was not happy about being sat, especially against Toronto, in a game that would be considered a "showcase game", so there's probably some motivation to impress if he gets back in the lineup.  If that is the case, it's a crap shoot as to who sits out...over the past little bit, David Moss, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan and Glencross have all taken healthy seats in the press box.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net, and he'll likely start three of Calgary's remaining four games prior to Christmas.  You'd expect Henrik Karlsson to see action either Monday in Minnesota or the following night in Columbus, with Kiprusoff also playing Thursday in Dallas.

Because we don't know lines and pairings, as Head Coach Brent Sutter isn't tipping his hand in morning skate, here's what we saw in Thursday's win over Toronto:

Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Mikael Backlund-Brendan Morrison-Ales Kotalik
Tom Kostopoulos-David Moss-Tim Jackman

Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk

Calgary's top line did some really nice work against Toronto's number one unit on Thursday, with all three guys finishing well above water.  It was a good return for Matt Stajan, who sat the two games and had been frustrating at times prior.  But he showed his best qualities upon his return, using his vision to generate a number of quality scoring opportunities, including a deft pass to Alex Tanguay to set up a goal in the second period.

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 29: Nick Schultz  of the Minnesota Wild gets called for hooking against Olli Jokinen  of the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 29, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images)
 

Olli Jokinen is shooting the puck, and the puck is going in as of late.  That's good to see.  Jokinen is a guy who will never be overly effective at 5-on-5, but if he's deployed correctly at even strength, he can generate some shots for; and if he's engaged, he can be a guy who does some damage on the powerplay.  Let's see if those things continue.

The Opponent

Kent sums up the Minnesota Wild pretty well in his gameday preview, and his assertion is bang on.  This isn't a powerhouse team, and it isn't a group that seems on the cusp of much anything more than what they are right now.  The Wild will play it close to the vest, not generate a ton of chances, and will count on being opportunistic when they do have chances.

Niklas Backstrom gets the start in net for the Wild tonight, who has started just six of the last 13 games for the team.  He hasn't been as consistent as in previous years, but he's a guy we all know has success against the Flames.  Backstrom was strong in their first meeting with Calgary, a 2-1 win, and the coaching staff is trying to balance success with not letting frustration set in with their number one goalie.

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 29: Matt Cullen  of the Minnesota Wild races for the puck against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 29, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames beat the Wild 3-0. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images)
 
As mentioned above, the Wild are not a deep team, either up front or on the back end.  They will welcome Matt Cullen back to the lineup after missing three games with a groin injury.  Cam Barker will not play on the blueline, after traveling back to Winnipeg to for a personal reason, so Clayton Stoner will slot in on the blueline.  Here are projected lines and pairings:

Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Matt Cullen-Martin Havlat
Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettenen
Eric Nystrom-John Madden-Cal Clutterbuck
Chuck Kobasew-Patrick O'Sullivan-Kyle Brodziak

Marek Zidlicky-Greg Zanon
Nick Schultz-Brent Burns
Jared Spurgeon-Clayton Stoner

The Story

This is one of the rare teams Calgary has a winning record against the season, boasting a 2-1 record against the Wild, winning their last two games.  With two more games in the next three days, this is a really opportunity to put a division rival well behind them, which is important for the Flames to do.  Right now, with the pack so close near the Western Conference playoffs, a chance to vault yourself further ahead of a team, and put them further back of the pack...you do it.  Calgary can beat Minnesota, so it's on them to go out and do it.

Of Note

Calgary has done a nice job of staying out of the penalty box as of late, and that'll be important tonight.  The Minnesota powerplay is still strong, clicking at 21.6%, good for seventh in the NHL.  Calgary's penalty kill has not been good over the last ten games, allowing ten goals on 42 attempts at a low efficiency rate of 76.2%.  That being said, Calgary has yielded just two powerplays in their last two games.

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Pat Steinberg can be heard daily on the Fan960 in Calgary at can be read at the FAN 960. Born and raised in Calgary, Steinberg considers himself a huge fan of all sports including the CFL, MMA and 13 round bare knuckle boxing matches. Follow Steinberg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
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#1 Kent Wilson
December 18 2010, 02:40PM
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BTW - I have tickets this one, so scoring chances won't be up right away. I'll try tweet some thoughts from the Dome though.

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#3 Reidja
December 18 2010, 03:17PM
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Unrelated... does anyone have a link to the High Pitched Nervous Kid bit Richards did this week (replayed in the afternoon)? Can't find it and I've been telling people how freaking hilarious it was!

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#4 Robert Cleave
December 18 2010, 03:40PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

BTW - I have tickets this one, so scoring chances won't be up right away. I'll try tweet some thoughts from the Dome though.

I hope it's better than the Flames-Wild game you suffered through last year.

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#5 Kent Wilson
December 18 2010, 03:57PM
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Robert Cleave wrote:

I hope it's better than the Flames-Wild game you suffered through last year.

Ugh, me too. I'm going with the same friend too, so maybe I shouldn't hold my breath.

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#6 Kent Wilson
December 18 2010, 03:58PM
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Reidja wrote:

Unrelated... does anyone have a link to the High Pitched Nervous Kid bit Richards did this week (replayed in the afternoon)? Can't find it and I've been telling people how freaking hilarious it was!

Not sure. Pat should know though.

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#7 schevvy
December 18 2010, 04:46PM
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Apparantly Glencross was not very happy about being a healthy scratch thursday, and doesn't understand why he was in the press box. Well if you don't want to be up there, PLAY BETTER! I wouldn't mind if he was a healthy scratch tonight, the guy has done nothing in the last month

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#8 Kent Wilson
December 18 2010, 05:04PM
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Ryan just let me know his computer gave up the ghost this afternoon.

This post will act as the gamethread therefore.

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#9 hal a pena
December 18 2010, 05:25PM
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so who gets to sit tonight? kotalik?

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#10 dotfras
December 18 2010, 05:49PM
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@schevvy

Haven't liked the play of Moss & Glencross as of late. I remember a month or so back their line was just dominating games.

Kotalik had a fairly decent game on Thursday, wouldn't think he sits.

My money's on Kostoplolous sitting & seeing a 4th line of Moss, Glencross & Jackman getting similar time to line 3. Maybe Jackman can be the spark plug for them.

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#11 icedawg_42
December 18 2010, 06:21PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

BTW - I have tickets this one, so scoring chances won't be up right away. I'll try tweet some thoughts from the Dome though.

Lets hope it's a good'er, and you have something to cheer for, if not there's always the dome crack-beer. Hopefully the Flames dont need a "reason" to get up for this one, like they had against Toronto.

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#12 funkyjaman
December 18 2010, 06:38PM
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I had the Domes "Crack beer" at the Toronto game on thursday. Don't remember a whole lot after the 2nd intermission except that I ended up going from 7th row nose bleeds to 5 rows up from the glass!! Yay for Crack Beer!!

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#13 John Deere Green
December 18 2010, 08:41PM
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It sure would be nice to have a Kessler type player on the Flames. I realize they don't grow on trees but surely they could find one around. I thought maybe Moss could play that type of role but he just doesn't have the hands like Kessler. Oh well, maybe next year.

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#14 Robert Cleave
December 18 2010, 08:49PM
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Corsi.

CGY -8, EV shots 8-5 Minnesota. Moss and company have been excellent. Everyone else looks like hot garbage.

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#15 Robert Cleave
December 18 2010, 09:44PM
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Corsi.

Even, CGY +9 in the period. EV shots 11-11, CGY 6-3 in the second. 11 shots at EV just isn't enough, and the Flames were basically a 3 line team in the second with Backlund's line mostly benched.

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#16 John Deere Green
December 18 2010, 10:01PM
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Yawn, paint drying anyone?

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#17 Robert Cleave
December 18 2010, 10:41PM
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Corsi.

CGY +12, EV shots with the goalie in ended 23-14 Flames. Calgary just didn't get anything going in the first two periods. When the only line going until the last ten minutes is your fourth line, you're likely toast, and Calgary was.

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#18 dotfras
December 18 2010, 10:44PM
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That was a waste of time.

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