FGD: By a Thread

Pat Steinberg
March 30 2011 11:36AM

The Calgary Flames have hopes for the playoffs.  Very, very, very thin hopes for the playoffs...at best.  Those thin chances may be completely extinguished tonight, depending on the result of Calgary's last game against an opponent their chasing.  The Flames take on the Anaheim Ducks tonight at the 'Dome, once again, the "biggest game of the year" (7:30 pm, TSN and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960).

With losses from Chicago and Nashville last night, the Flames have a slight opportunity to close a little bit of a gap.  That's looking at the immediate picture, and it's really all the team can do.  Steve Staios had the best quote inside the locker room this morning, saying "we can't win five tonight" and that really does seem to be the focus.

Elimination Number: 3.5

The good news is, that number didn't move last night.  It could have dropped to three, but instead stays at 3.5 or seven points.  Chicago's schedule isn't easy down the stretch, so if Calgary can make it tougher on them by winning their games, they've got a chance.

The Lineup

Not much changes for the Flames, as they get set to tangle with the Ducks for the final time this season.  Saturday's exciting 5-4 shootout win was fun, but it certainly underlined some issues for the team.  Calgary was out and out worked by a better team Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks, but to have the same thing happen for the vast majority of a hockey game Saturday is another story.  The Oilers are not a better hockey team...in fact...the Oilers are not an NHL hockey team, yet they outplayed, outworked, outchanced, and almost beat the Flames.  Not good.

The largest question I have is...why?  Why at this time of year are the Flames falling into a trap of playing poor, listless hockey?  It's not like the Oilers game was the first time this has happened.  They've had numerous issues throughout the month of March, and those issues need to be kicked from their game in short order.  Calgary has just five games remaining, and their only real chance at a playoff spot is to run the table, something they won't do with some of the hockey we've seen.

The injury situation remains the same for Calgary, with no David Moss, Brendan Morrison or Niklas Hagman tonight.  The one piece of good news surrounds Morrison, who has been skating by himself prior to practice the last couple days, continuing his recovery.  That's not to say he'll be ready in short order, but it's a sign of progress.  The other question mark is Daymond Langkow, who will not play tonight, and when he does end up playing is anyone's guess at this point.  The feeling is Langkow is physically ready, but salary and hockey wise, it may not be the best option to put him in.

The salary issues surrounding Langkow are simple.  He's a $4.5 million cap hit, and even though it's the end of the season, it's still difficult to make all the necessary room.  It would mean sending a player back down to the American Hockey League, and with only one remaining recall, that's not the best idea ever.  Then there's the hockey stuff.  The Flames are in a playoff race here and Langkow hasn't played in over a year.  I understand he was a large part of Calgary's success last year, but needing wins, it's a definite risk putting in a cold player at this time of year.  All that said, here are lines and pairings for tonight...at least to start...

Alex Tanguay-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Ales Kotalik-Tom Kostopoulos-Tim Jackman
Lance Bouma-Matt Stajan-Greg Nemisz

Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk-Steve Staios

Miikka Kiprusoff makes the start in net after a couple games where his performance level hasn't been where it's needed to be.  Against a high flying Ducks team, you hope 34 can raise his game.

The Opponent

It's the red hot, and healthy Anaheim Ducks tonight at the 'Dome.  It's pretty remarkable looking at the Ducks roster and seeing no significant, or even minor, injuries.  That's thanks in large part to the activation of goaltender Jonas Hiller off injured reserve, as he's finally been able to kick the vertigo-like symptoms he's been suffering over the last month plus.  He truly is one of the league's elite goaltenders, but the team is being very careful with their prized stallion, not pushing him into too much action right off the hop.  With Randy Carlyle as the Head Coach, you never really know who's starting in net, but it looks like Ray Emery will get the start, as he was the first one off the ice.  Hiller is practicing with the team and Dan Ellis is their third option.

Nothing has changed in terms of how the Ducks play, with them still spending a lot of time in their own end, and still spending a lot of time back on their heels.  That said, they've seemed to adapt a little to their situation, knowing they don't have a goalie like Hiller to save their bacon.  While Emery and Ellis have played well, Anaheim has also tightened up a little in their own end, really doing a nice job cutting down on quality scoring chances.

They're still a top heavy team, however, and if you can find a way to neutralize the top two lines, you'll have some success, because the Ducks don't boast a ton in their bottom six forwards.  The top line is as good as you'll find in the NHL, and Corey Perry is a legit Hart Trophy contender, regardless of how much you hate him.  Few players can singlehandedly impact the game like he does, and he's one of the true heavyweights on this team, along with his linemate Ryan Getzlaf.  The second line has some real punch too, and the Flames killer Teemu Selanne will try to be at his best again, coming of a five point night Monday against Colorado.  And he's 40.  Here are lines and pairings:

Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Jason Blake-Saku Koivu-Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey-Brandon McMillan-Brad Winchester
Jarko Ruutu-Todd Marchant-George Parros

Toni Lydman-Lubomir Visnovsky
Francois Beauchemin-Luca Sbisa
Cam Fowler-Sheldon Brookbank

It's been a real nice season for Fowler, and they've got a real player on their hands as he continues to progress through his rookie season.  Lydman and Visnovsky are a surprisingly good shutdown tandem, and the latter is putting up crazy points too.  I say it everytime the Flames play the Ducks, but Visnovsky has been one of the league's most consistent defencemen this year, and the Norris Trophy talk surrounding him isn't unfounded.

The Story

Very simple for the home side: win and make Friday important, lose and kiss your season goodbye.  I'm not holding out much hope at all for a playoff spot regardless, but at the very least, a win here and you move within one of Chicago and reel Anaheim within two points.  While Calgary may not be postseason bound, at least make these final five games as meaningful as you can.

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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 FlamesinHamilton
March 30 2011, 11:56AM
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An artists reconstruction of the Flames recent road trip through California. It's funny (and sad) because it's true.

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/576360/Pissing_on_Flames.jpg

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#2 Gange
March 30 2011, 12:18PM
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Well the only thing I can say is it would be nice to see Lanks skate again with the team before the end of the year.

For sentimental reasons.

That said, it was a crazy year, it's not over but the fat lady is about to walk on stage.

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#3 FireOnIce
March 30 2011, 12:48PM
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I said it before and I'll say it again - don't take a stupid penalty with 2 minutes left! Selanne WILL score!

The Ducks have had our number all season and it doesn't look to stop. At least if we are going to have our playoff chances smashed, do it with heart - play hard, play smart, and end the game brawling if you must lose.

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#4 rubbertrout
March 30 2011, 01:11PM
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As an Oilers fan who has Flames season tickets I'll be happy for the roller-coaster ride to end.

Not as happy as I will be when get my playoff tickets money refunded, but happy nonetheless.

I enjoy the game day threads notwithstanding the homerism from the Fan. Good job Pat.

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#5 BrianSheva
March 30 2011, 01:14PM
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I'm more concerned with potential off-season losses (of players) than making the post season at this stage of the game.

However being constantly told that "this game" is the most important one after so many weeks of playoff hockey has got to take its toll. I just hope they go and have a little fun tonight - if the Flames don't have or can't find the motivation to win this game from the opening faceoff then that should just about sum up the season.

2 cents

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#6 negrilcowboy
March 30 2011, 01:15PM
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Its gut check time.

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#7 Brent G.
March 30 2011, 01:26PM
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please, please, please, PLEASE let Anaheim play Vancouver in the first round. They are rolling and looking really good in the process and I think Lu will falter like he does when the games mean anything.

Even if they dont win, Vancouver's defense is made of glass and I truly think they would run them right through the end boards.

The Flames are done but now my focus is on seeing Vancouver fail! Philly is going to win the cup this year anyways.

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#8 Kent Wilson
March 30 2011, 01:28PM
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There's no two ways about it. The Flames will have to put it all on the line tonight. Get focused, give 110%, leave everything on the ice. They need to play a full 60 minutes and not take any shifts off. No passengers tonight. Their best players have to be their best players.

Must win game. Cliches set to maximum!

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#9 the forgotten man
March 30 2011, 01:29PM
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Was Iginla at the driving range or the rink today? I need to get my Sport Select filled out.

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#10 Arik
March 30 2011, 01:31PM
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@FlamesinHamilton

just to give credit where it's due- that image is by earl sleek, from http://www.battleofcali.com

gotta watch out for my fellow SBN folks (http://www.battleofcali.com/2011/3/30/2079987/ducks-gameday-flame-mignon)

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#11 Brent G.
March 30 2011, 01:35PM
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BrianSheva wrote:

I'm more concerned with potential off-season losses (of players) than making the post season at this stage of the game.

However being constantly told that "this game" is the most important one after so many weeks of playoff hockey has got to take its toll. I just hope they go and have a little fun tonight - if the Flames don't have or can't find the motivation to win this game from the opening faceoff then that should just about sum up the season.

2 cents

I agree completely with your assessment of this game.

On the player UFA status, I do feel the same way but think my concern is more over the idea of resisting change. Each UFA has value to this team, and are certainly not the reason we are out of the playoff picture BUT icing the same team next year certainly isnt a formula of making the playoffs either. I do think if Tanguay and Glencross can be had for a good price they should be kept and remove Hagman and Kotalik to make it work but in all honesty if they arent on the team will it really make a difference?

With them in the line up this is a 9th or 10th place team, without them it is likely a 12th to 14th placed team. I appreciate the sentiment of keeping them in the line up but really will it make a difference. With them there the playoffs are a long shot and a much worse drafting position will result. Babchuk is completely despensible, Morrison should be resigned if he can be had for cheap but hes not really a #1 center, Tanguay is great and likely should be the one they go after the hardest and Glencross' numbers are overblown for the type of player he is. Someone said he was a 2nd line LW. REally? He's not. Hes a very nice player and key to this team but on another team he'd be a very good third liner who should be paid as such.

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#12 negrilcowboy
March 30 2011, 02:00PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

There's no two ways about it. The Flames will have to put it all on the line tonight. Get focused, give 110%, leave everything on the ice. They need to play a full 60 minutes and not take any shifts off. No passengers tonight. Their best players have to be their best players.

Must win game. Cliches set to maximum!

Its do or die. There is no tomorrow. Winning isnt an option, its the only thing. in Sutter we trust. Oh ok forget the last one.

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#13 Justin Azevedo
March 30 2011, 02:25PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

I said it before and I'll say it again - don't take a stupid penalty with 2 minutes left! Selanne WILL score!

The Ducks have had our number all season and it doesn't look to stop. At least if we are going to have our playoff chances smashed, do it with heart - play hard, play smart, and end the game brawling if you must lose.

Wait...is there ever a good time to take a stupid penalty? I kid, I kid.

To add to the cliches-"gotta keep the feet moving", "make sure those passes are hard and on the tape", and "do it for the fans".

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#14 Kent Wilson
March 30 2011, 02:26PM
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I've decided to give away a $50 Hudsons GC today. Tweet me your best guess for the score tonight with a #Hudsonscontest hashtag and I'll pick from the guesses that are the closest (or get the score right).

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#15 Todd
March 30 2011, 03:04PM
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Well since I am 3-0 on predictions, PATS SELF ON BACK, let's make it a CLEAN sweep.

DUCKS 5 Flames 4. Ducks will either open the game 4-0 or come back on the Flames up 4-1. Either way it's HEART BREAK CITY IN CAL-GARy. Oh wait the "real" fans will leave before that anyways. They gotta get that c-train seat so their p-coats don't get mushy.

Really Flames fan? You want us to face the DUCKS? BHAHHAHAHAHA. So Sugar Ray Emery can get lit up like an Xmas tree by HEnrik and Daniel?

We have 50 wins people. 50. I know many Flames fans can't count that high, but 50 is a big number.

CHEERS to VODKA and RUM and the Flames being DONE!

p.s.

50mill committed, good luck getting anybody in the league taking your contracts.

VAN NATION FOR LIFE!!!!!!

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#16 Kent Wilson
March 30 2011, 03:07PM
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@Todd

It's actually 58M committed. At least try to get the facts straight when you gloat.

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#17 Justin Azevedo
March 30 2011, 03:11PM
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@Todd

lol

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#18 bill
March 30 2011, 03:52PM
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SAVE Toad's post PLEASE. When the FLAMES BEAT THE DUCKS I want to see him grovel. GO FLAMES GO! Take out coach Bombay, Adam Banks, and Goldberg please.

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#19 bill
March 30 2011, 03:52PM
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SAVE Toad's post PLEASE. When the FLAMES BEAT THE DUCKS I want to see him grovel. GO FLAMES GO! Take out coach Bombay, Adam Banks, and Goldberg please.

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#20 SmellOfVictory
March 30 2011, 03:56PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

There's no two ways about it. The Flames will have to put it all on the line tonight. Get focused, give 110%, leave everything on the ice. They need to play a full 60 minutes and not take any shifts off. No passengers tonight. Their best players have to be their best players.

Must win game. Cliches set to maximum!

They'll have to move their feet and go hard to the net, Kent. As long as they play the way they play, they'll give themselves a chance to win.

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#21 OilFan
March 30 2011, 03:57PM
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@Todd

Karma is a bitch. Also WINNING in the regular season doesn't mean anything DUH. Vancouver has a good hockey team the playoffs are tough and Vancouver doesn't have a tough team. My playoffs picks. In the east BOSTON OR Washington in the west The Sharks and Ducks. SQEEEEEEEE. In the playoffs the ref tend to not call all the DIVES. Good luck

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#22 Justin Azevedo
March 30 2011, 04:15PM
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@OilFan

I like this guy.

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#23 Brent G.
March 30 2011, 04:36PM
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Justin Azevedo wrote:

I like this guy.

I second that. Kent you should just give him the GC to Hudson's. Sure Oiler and Flames fans hate each other but at least theres a level of respect. Really the ultimate goal is to just watch Vancouver fail, no? Thank you Todd for really amplifying what a Canuck fan is...You act like your better than the rest while the rest of the fan base is off saying some of the foulest stuff to Fleury; your not different.

What I find interesting about Todd's post is he thinks they would face Emery in the playoffs lol. Put down the peace pipe a$$hole and open your F*$@ing eyes. Anaheim has one of the best goalies in the NHL in Jonas Hiller. You know, the guy they are resting up for a long play off run? The man who single handedly could win a playoff series for them. It actually says that in the article itself...

As a side point, Mary Kate and Ashley are softer than Elton John at the Playboy mansion. They wont be scoring on anyone come post season except for your mom. Honestly Anaheim will make them look stupid and punish them hard. At the end all you'll have is Lu crying after letting down the team, a speech full of excuses aimed at reffing, and a bunch of heartless players not giving a $hit. Works well for them, they don't get paid for the post season.

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#24 OilFan
March 31 2011, 11:20AM
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@Brent G.

Thnaks guys but Gagne or Scott should get the GC. They support this site the most

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