October 20 2011 11:28AM
One of the most tenuous Calgary Flames issues this summer surrounded the team not signing end eventually trading former first round pick Tim Erixon. He's now a member of the New York Rangers and he'll be in the lineup tonight when the Blueshirts make their only visit to Calgary this season (7:30 pm, TSN and Sportsnet 960). It's game two of a six game homestand for the Flames, which they started on the right foot Tuesday night.
The Flames took an interesting 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday while the Rangers continue a season opening seven game road trip. It's an opportunity for Calgary to get to the .500 mark, something they haven't done in the early parts of the season. Even though there were some pedestrian and punchless moments on Tuesday night, the Flames opened up their homestand with a win, which was the most important thing.
Miikka Kiprusoff was very good for the Flames on Tuesday night, but after three consecutive starts, it looks like he'll take a seat to allow Henrik Karlsson to get the start tonight. It'll be Karlsson's second action of the year after he played in game two against the St. Louis Blues. I have no issue with the move whatsoever, as it shows Calgary is sticking to how they want to manage their goaltenders early on.
It was an optional skate this morning, so any lineup assumptions aren't as iron clad as they would be during a normal skate, but it looks like Tom Kostopoulos re-enters the lineup after sitting out against the Oilers. He enters in the spot of Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond who didn't do much of anything in his first outing. Anton Babchuk will sit once again on the back in end in favour of Derek Smith.
Alex Tanguay-David Moss-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Lee Stempniak
Niklas Hagman-Brendan Morrison-Rene Bourque
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich-Derek Smith
I really liked the Bouwmeester-Butler pairing on Tuesday night, as I thought they played their best game of the season. They were involved in scoring opportunities at the right side of the ice, and they allowed very little when in their own end. That duo needs to be steady when they're on the ice, so when they're also affecting the play positively, it's good to see.
Erixon started the season with the New York Rangers, even though it seemed like he wouldn't be doing so. Prior to the start of their campaign in Europe, the Rangers assigned Erixon to the American Hockey League but recalled him shortly thereafter when it was discovered Marc Staal might not be able to start the season. New York's number one defenceman remains out of the lineup indefinetely with a concussion he suffered last last season.
The Rangers made the biggest off season splash, signing Brad Richards to a nine year, $58.5 million contract. He's off to a decent start, with four points in New York's first four games after two straight point-per-game plus seasons with the Dallas Stars. Richards centres a couple dangerous wingers with finishing capability. He and Marian Gaborik seem to have been given the high ground so far this season with a good number of the other forwards being fed more difficult situations to aid in that cause.
Derek Stepan-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp-Erik Christensen-Kris Newbury
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Tim Erixon-Michael Del Zotto
Jeff Woywitka-Steve Eminger
The Rangers are missing forward Wojtek Wolski who's missed three games with a groin injury, although he is back practicing with the team. Defenceman Michael Sauer remains out with a shoulder injury suffered in Europe, and looking at their depth, they could probably use him. It'll be fun to see Brandon Prust back at the Saddledome, coming off a very effective season in his first full campaign with New York.
After posting an impressive shutout Tuesday in Montreal, Henrik Lundqvist gets the start in net for the visitors.
It's an opponent the Flames see once a season, so it's not like we'll be picking out a ton of trends in that respect. I will say there are some matchups they can exploit on the back end, so we'll see if Calgary can end up doing the job in that respect. Most importantly, this homestand is all about how the Flames play, and the team still holds up last Thursday in Montreal as their best game of the season. There were some good facets of the Oilers win, but the pedestrian moments have to be limited against a better team like the Rangers.