November 29 2013 10:33AM
The day after American Thanksgiving is best known as Black Friday, a day where bargain-hunters wake up early to hunt for deals. The Calgary Flames (8-12-4) are no different, as they're up early in Orange County for a 2pm MT matinee date with the Anaheim Ducks (17-7-3), and it's not even the earliest hockey game of the day. It's on Sportsnet's various media properties. The Flames' bad record in the Honda Center is the stuff of legend, as they haven't won in 17 visits to Anaheim. The last visit preceded their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004.
Moreover, the Flames are suddenly mired in a streak of bad luck, both on the ice and off. Blown leads, bad starts and a rash of injuries have left Calgary reeling. A win in Anaheim would go a long way towards keeping morale on an upward tick.
Max Reinhart and Paul Byron joined the team in the last 24 hours, as T.J. Galiardi, Sean Monahan and Denis Wideman are on the shelf. With a lack of full line rushes due to injuries and the schedule, here's my guess.
Cammalleri – Stajan – Stempniak
Baertschi – Backlund - Hudler
Bouma – Colborne – D. Jones
Reinhart – B. Jones – McGrattan/Byron
Russell – Brodie
Butler – Smid
Breen/O'Brien – Smith
Five regulars are out for Calgary (Galiardi, Glencross, Monahan, Giordano, Wideman) and I'd expect Byron to play one of the next two games, so he'll probably sit to get acclimatized with his teammates before playing. As mentioned before, the Flames never, ever win in Anaheim.
They're also a not-great road team in general, with a 4-7-1 record (worst in the West) away from home. The line-up is also super-depleted, most notably their defense, which wasn't great shakes to begin with. If you took the blueline group of a team expected to flirt with 30th place and then took away two of the three best players from that group, well, it'd look like this one.
Optimism: the penalty-kill's been pretty good over the last stretch.
After filling up on turkey yesterday, the Ducks hope to fill up on the Flames today. Lines from Daily Faceoff:
Penner – Getzlaf – Perry
Palmieri – Perreault – Selanne
Cogliano – Koivu – Winnik
Beleskey – Bonino – Jackman
Fowler – Lovejoy
Yonkman – Vatanen
Fistric – Lindholm
Like Calgary, five regulars are out (Allen, Souray, Silferberg, Beauchemin, Sbisa, Fasth), but the Ducks have more depth and have been more or less fine lately. They host in a bit of a “slide” (by their standards), having gone .500 over their last 10 and struggling to score a lot.
Saku Koivu is a game-time decision due to an injury he's recovering from, but he's expected to play. He adds a bit more firepower to a group that boasts size, speed, talent, and Tim Jackman – traded to the Ducks last week. Perhaps we see a Jackman/McGrattan face-punching battle?
SUM IT UP
The odds are stacked against the Flames: afternoon game, on the road, in Anaheim, against a team hoping to get back on track, with a line-up that's even more depleted by injuries than beforehand. This 36 hours will definitely test Calgary's mental fortitude. The upside is that very few on-lookers expect the Flames to win given the circumstances, so there's no better time than right now for this group to buckle down, dig in and shock the world with a pair of good performances in SoCal.
And there would be no better way to start that than with a win against the Ducks today.