FGD: A Lonestar Christmas

Pat Steinberg
December 23 2010 12:35PM

The Calgary Flames finish off their pre-Christmas schedule tonight in Big D as they take on the Dallas Stars for the first time this season (6:30 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960).  Calgary will try to snap a damaging three game losing skid against the second  best team in the Western Conference.

It's the Flames and the Stars with Calgary trying to give themselves some sort of early present, in the form of a win...however they have to do it.  It's a Stars team that sits on top of the Pacific Division and has suffered just three regulation losses at home.  That seems daunting, and Calgary's road record makes it an even bigger task...they've won just five of 19 away from the 'Dome.

The Lineup

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 09: Miika Kiprusoff  of the Calgary Flames makes a save against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at the Staples Center on December 9, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
 

Not a whole lot changes for the Flames tonight, with the exception of Miikka Kiprusoff returning in net after Henrik Karlsson turned in a strong performance on Tuesday night.  Mikael Backlund takes a seat for the third straight game, and at this point, there's nothing else I can say about this decision.  There's no reason for him to be sitting, and I have no idea if the call comes from Brent or Darryl Sutter, but it is 100% a poor decision in my eyes.

Olli Jokinen has taken back over the role of centering the top line, and hasn't been overly horrible at it.  At the very least, he's shooting the puck in offensive situations...sometimes.  He's firing it more often now than he has at any other time this season, so that's a positive for that guy.  Here are lines and pairings tonight:

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

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

Stajan and Morrison seem to have swapped positions in terms of where they're playing, but it really doesn't matter...at all.  Stajan was completely invisible on Tuesday night and has done very little overall this season.  After a strong start, Brendan Morrison has been nowhere near as good the last while, and to me Backlund gives you more than he does; maybe both.

The Opponent

It's funny...I was looking at the Stars underlying numbers yesterday afternoon, and they're a baffling team.  Is it a fluke that they are where they are? No...but there's certainly some luck playing into it as well.  Dallas doesn't boast outstanding special teams, with a middling powerplay and a below average penalty kill...so, they must be really good at even strength right?  But as Robert Cleave points out, that's not the case either.  The team is allowing a ton of shots at even strength, but the pucks are staying out and they're going in at the other end, thanks to a high shooting percentage.

DALLAS - OCTOBER 26: Brad Richards  of the Dallas Stars stretches in warmups prior to his game against the Anaheim Ducks at the American Airlines Center on October 26, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. The Ducks defeated the Stars 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
 

This team does boast some talented forwards, clearly their strength.  Lead by Brad Richards, this team is getting pretty balanced scoring from two lines.  The blueline leaves quite a bit to be desired, and can be exploited.  Kari Lehtonen starts in net for the Stars tonight, boasting average statistics, but he's got the job done to this point.  Dallas does a nice job of pushing things to the outside when in their own end, so they do limit the quality of shots against.

Here are lines and pairings for the Stars tonight:

James Neal-Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson
Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribeiro-Jamie Benn
Steve Ott-Adam Burish-Toby Petersen
Brian Sutherby-Tom Wandell-Brandon Segal/Krystofer Barch

Nicklas Grossman-Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley-Jeff Woywitka
Matt Niskanen-Mark Fistric

Ribeiro's line sees a lot of top opposition, so we'll see if Marc Crawford goes with his unit against Iginla's line for most of this one.  If so, you can expect Richards line to get out against either Stajan or Morrison.

The Story

Do many people believe the Flames will be a playoff team? No.  But at the very least, win a game before you go one your short Christmas break.  After tonight, the schedule slows down for a bit...a home game on Monday, a home game on Friday, and then in Edmonton on Saturday.  So, win here, give yourself something to feel good about, and go from there.  Calgary can beat Dallas...but will they do what they need to? That's the million dollar question.

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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 23 2010, 12:39PM
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Im going out of town tonight folks, so no scoring chance count until I get back (I'll be PVRing the game).

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#2 B
December 23 2010, 01:13PM
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...sorry to take this post off topic (only a little though), but in other news, Lemaire is coaching the Devils again as MacLean was fired today. Wonder if Brent is next?

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#3 negrilcowboy
December 23 2010, 01:28PM
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B wrote:

...sorry to take this post off topic (only a little though), but in other news, Lemaire is coaching the Devils again as MacLean was fired today. Wonder if Brent is next?

the flames may one up the devils and fire both the coach and gm. scrooge like, the ghost of flames past,flames present and the ghost of flames future.

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#4 walkinvisible
December 23 2010, 01:53PM
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nerdy blogger meet-up set for crowfoot schanks tonight, gametime. i presume you'll be there. :)

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#5 negrilcowboy
December 23 2010, 01:56PM
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no a very nice christmas present, richards versus stajan.

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#6 negrilcowboy
December 23 2010, 01:57PM
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not a very nice christmas present, richards versus stajan.

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#8 negrilcowboy
December 23 2010, 02:10PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

Of course I'll be there! Who else is coming?

hey pat, why not make tonights ot a christmas list themed show. bet the call list would be til boxing day.

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#9 walkinvisible
December 23 2010, 02:17PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

Of course I'll be there! Who else is coming?

head over to http://www.hitthepost.ca for the official rsvp list.

see you there.

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#10 Subversive
December 23 2010, 02:18PM
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I hate to say this, but I am officially hoping for an a$$-whupping by Dallas tonight. One or two more bad losses should get the job done (yeah, I'm looking at you, Darryl, go spend some time in Norglenwold and stop scowling so much).

I don't think you need to "blow it up" the way some people do, but I think you need a competent GM to extract value and turn this thing around.

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#11 propositionWes
December 23 2010, 02:19PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Im going out of town tonight folks, so no scoring chance count until I get back (I'll be PVRing the game).

I hope you have some sort of chemical stimulant to get you through that... maybe egg nog and red bull.

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#12 walkinvisible
December 23 2010, 02:21PM
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Subversive wrote:

I hate to say this, but I am officially hoping for an a$$-whupping by Dallas tonight. One or two more bad losses should get the job done (yeah, I'm looking at you, Darryl, go spend some time in Norglenwold and stop scowling so much).

I don't think you need to "blow it up" the way some people do, but I think you need a competent GM to extract value and turn this thing around.

dude. if you're in town, you should come to schanks tonight for the game.... we know there's gonna be a loss so at least we can all get drunk together and have a bunch of fun. ;)

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#13 Subversive
December 23 2010, 02:24PM
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walkinvisible wrote:

dude. if you're in town, you should come to schanks tonight for the game.... we know there's gonna be a loss so at least we can all get drunk together and have a bunch of fun. ;)

Ah, I'd love to, but tonight is our "family Christmas eve". Santa visits our house tonight, then we head on the road to various grandparents, etc. Have fun and have a wonderful Christmas!

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#15 Robert Cleave
December 23 2010, 02:48PM
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@Pat Steinberg @walkinvisible

Make sure you hoist one for the Winnipeg chapter and enjoy the evening, folks. I'll only get to watch the last half of the game, which might not necessarily be the worst thing ever.

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#16 walkinvisible
December 23 2010, 03:51PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

That's a good RSVP list. I'm going to over step my bounds and invite any FlamesNation commenter to come on by.

more = merrier

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#17 dotfras
December 23 2010, 06:54PM
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Nice to see Iggy with some emotion sticking up for Gio there.

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