October 24 2013 12:22PM
The Calgary Flames conclude their lengthy five-game road trip – their first of three of that length this season – tonight in Dallas with a game against the Stars. Puck drop is at 6:30pm and the game is covered by the usual suspects (Sportsnet Flames, Fan 960 and us during/after game).
The Flames are getting healthier, having welcomed back Mike Cammalleri in LA and David Jones in Phoenix. Matt Stajan is primed to join the returners club, but some moves need to happen for him to play tonight. Either way, the Flames are 1-3-0 in the first four games of their trip, so they're probably excited that a veteran center who can win face-offs is healthy, because that's a huge, gaping hole in their game right now.
Despite their woes on this trip, the Flames boast a fairly respectable 4-3-2 record – technically below .500 but good for a team that everyone was predicting to finish 30th (or 31st) in the league. Most impressive, as pointed out by Sportsnet's Charlie Simmer on the Phoenix broadcast, is that the Flames have been in every game they've played – even the ones they've lost. Again, for a young team that up until this week was missing their three best non-Glencross forwards, that's full marks.
Via DailyFaceoff, lines:
Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
Galiardi – Backlund – Jones
Cammalleri – Monahan – Hudler
Bouma – Colborne – Jackman
Russell – Wideman
Butler – Brodie
Breen – O'Brien
Karri Ramo gets his third start, both in part because Joey MacDonald was a bit rambunctious against Phoenix (and lost) and because Ramo was excellent against the Kings and only got rested because it was a back-to-back. Notable by their absences from the Flames projected line-up are Roman Horak (likely back to the AHL), Sven Baertschi and Brian McGrattan (scratched) and Mark Giordano (day-to-day). Giordano reportedly didn't skate today or yesterday, and indications it's a “wait-and-see” type of injury, not a “legs are broken off” one.
The Baertschi scratch is interesting but not shocking – he's got appreciably less points than his two regular line-mates (Hudler has 12, Monahan has 9, Sven has 4) and with Stajan and Cammalleri's return, he doesn't really fit into the top nine. He also doesn't really fit a checking role, so perhaps a stint on the sidelines is what he needs to re-focus. Maybe in future games, Jackman rotates out, Galiardi plays with Bouma and Colborne and Baertschi returns to the line-up? I'm just guessing.
The Stars are one of 13 NHL teams officially worse than the Calgary Flames, boasting a 3-5-0 record through 8 games. A lot of that can be attributed to some weak offensive starts – Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are producing, but that's it – and an injury to Kari Lehtonen (who's great) requiring them to rely on Dan Ellis (who's capable but not great).
Via DailyFaceoff, some lines:
Jamie Benn – Seguin – Peverley
Whitney – Eakin – Chiasson
Cole – Horcoff – Nichushkin
MacDermid – Fiddler – Roussel
Dillon – Robidas
Daley – Jordie Benn
Connauton – Gonchar
Aaron Rome cleared waivers but hasn't been re-assigned as of yet. Kevin Connauton slots in for Alex Goligoski and makes his NHL debut. Erik Cole was nursing some malady but will play tonight. Lehtonen gets the start. The Stars have been off since Saturday and have lost four of their last five, including dropping back-to-back games to LA and Anaheim over the weekend.
Oddly, the Stars boast a lot of 30-and-older players: Cole, Vernon Fiddler, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley, Ray Whitney (who's 41), Trevor Daley, Sergei Gonchar, Stephane Robidas and Ellis. Heck, Kari Lehtonen joins the club next month. Considering how the NHL is shifting towards a game predicated by youth and speed, their roster construction seems a bit strange.
Of course, the unit to watch is also one of their youngest - the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverly. Seguin and Benn are significant offensive talents and can be handful if left to their own devices.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are finishing up their road trip and while they probably won't have their captain tonight, they will get Matty Franchise back. For a team that's suffered greatly due to losing a boat-load of face-offs, gaining Stajan's services once again will be a huge step towards proving they really are as good as they've played in the past three weeks.