January 14 2012 01:01PM
My head is still spinning from Thursday night's acquisition of Mike Cammalleri. It adds another massive storyline to tonight's massive matchup between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings (8 pm, CBC and Sportsnet 960). You can add Cammalleri's return to the Sutter vs. Sutter angle, and let's not forget how important this game is for both teams in the Western Conference standings. Too many things to talk about!
Cammalleri arrived in the city yesterday evening, met with the media, and then was back this morning to participate in morning skate. Darryl Sutter was in the house early this morning, as the new Head Coach of the Kings likes to prepare bright and early for games. Overall, there are all the makings of a playoff-like atmosphere for this one as the Flames look to win their ninth straight game on Saddledome ice.
Cammalleri was skating on a line with Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak this morning which is likely the starting alignment for tonight. I don't mind the look, as Backlund has shown he can drive the play and Cammalleri has proven he can create when playing with a pivot like that. It also means the line centered by Olli Jokinen will stay together, looking to continue putting up the points they have.
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Mike Cammalleri-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Blake Comeau-Blair Jones-Lance Bouma
Tom Kostopoulos-Roman Horak-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Anton Babchuk
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich
It was almost refreshing to find out Cammalleri wasn't speaking to the media this morning. And why would he? He's got a game to prepare for and after doing 20 minutes with the media yesterday, doing it again would be kind of ridiculous. As for Head Coach Brent Sutter, he was asked the obligatory "what about facing your brother" questions once again, and you get the feeling his "non factor" responses are genuine.
Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net.
The Kings enter action tonight playing their best hockey of the season, and they're doing it under that guy we all came to love/hate/love to hate. Darryl Sutter has had the success GM Dean Lombardi envisioned when he hired him in early December thus far, and LA has risen to a playoff spot sitting seventh in the Western Conference. LA is 6-1-4 since Suttsy took over behind the bench.
Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dustin Penner-Mike Richards-Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson-Andrei Loktionov-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Trent Hunter
Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty
Jack Johnson-Matt Greene
Willia Mitchell-Slava Voynov
The Kings simply do not score very often, with their 97 goals for being the lowest total in the National Hockey League. That's why it's rather surprising you've seen LA put up eight goals over their last two games. The reason why they've had such a struggle scoring is beyond me, and seems to have baffled most who watch this league on a regular basis. Even with Simon Gagne sidelined with a concussion, they have two very capable scoring lines and a pair of blueliners with point producing ability.
It's not like they have awful possession numbers, as most guys have fairly solid rates, including Kopitar who is crushing opponents on a regular basis. The only anomaly is Mike Richards, who is way in the minus despite having a fairly typical split of offensive and defensive starts. I can't quite explain that one.
Jonathan Quick has been one of the NHL's best this season between the pipes, with his overall save percentage sitting at .932. That's fairly remarkable, especially considering it's a point higher than his number at even strength. He's consistently playing elite hockey in all situations, and he's a scary goaltender to face right now.
The stories write themselves tonight, but I'm more excited for just how good a game this could be. The second meeting between these two teams was great last season, which came at about this time in the year. These games are the biggest remaining ones this season, the same way games with Dallas and Phoenix will be. Sit back and enjoy!