February 28 2013 01:08PM
Your Calgary Flames have a bit of a problem, gang. They're seemingly allergic to getting over that hump at the .500 mark. They're 0-3-1 this year in games that could've put them over the top, and have arguably put out their four worst games of the year in those four outings. Heck, the same thing happened early last season and the Flames were only 3-4-2 when entering a game with a .500 record and the “horrible effort” train chugs back to that point last year, most notably the 9-0 mauling by the Bruins.
But the Flames get a second chance tonight, as they head into snowy Denver to tangle with the Colorado Avalanche. These two teams did battle in Calgary earlier this season, with the Flames blowing a third period tie in rather spectacular fashion and losing 6-3. They're hoping to put together a strong effort tonight.
To say the Flames were “flat” on Tuesday against Minnesota would be charitable. The entire team is probably thankful that Joey MacDonald was there to keep them in the game. Through the first 18 games, MacDonald is the only Flames goalkeeper with a respectable save percentage. His start tonight will see him pass Miikka Kiprusoff for the most time in a Flames net this season.
It's been a weird year. Here's the probable lines for tonight, courtesy of Sportsnet's Roger Millions (@rogmillions):
- Tanguay – Stajan – Iginla
- Glencross – Cammalleri – Stempniak
- Baertschi – Hudler – Comeau
- Aliu – Begin – Jackman
- Giordano – Bouwmeester
- Brodie – Wideman
- Butler – Sarich
Aliu's back, at the expense of (likely) Roman Cervenka. Cervenka has been “fine” this year. If you're asking why Blake Comeau is (a) still in the top-nine and (b) has played 17 of the 18 games this year, I have no idea. He's the Anton Babchuk of Flames forwards – he seemed like a decent low-risk pick-up at the time but I have no idea why you re-sign him or retain him in your line-up when the results have been so middling to poor. Particularly in the top-9 rotation.
On the other hand, Matt Stajan continues to be awesome.
The Avalanche are missing a ton of bodies and are riding a three-game winless streak (all of which took place on the same terrible road trip to California). Now back home, they're hoping to get healthy and get back on track. Like the Flames, Colorado hasn't been above the .500 mark all year, but can get back to the black with a win against the Flames.
Courtesy of the Herald's Scott Cruickshank, here are the probable lines:
- McGinn – Stastny - Parenteau
- Landeskog – Mitchell - Jones
- McLeod – Olver - Hejduk
- Bordeleau – Kobasew - Palushaj
- Hejda - Barrie
- Hunwick - O’Byrne
- O’Brien - Zanon
Matt Duchene didn't practice at Wednesday's optional session, but could slot in for the Avs. He's been out day-to-day with a groin issue. Also out for the Avalanche are Ryan Wilson, Erik Johnson, Steve Downie and the un-signed Ryan O'Reilly.
Despite their mediocre record, the Avalanche aren't a bad team – although that blueline is a tad thin (a product of injuries). Their two top lines are respectable and former Flames pick Chuck Kobasew has carved out a fairly distinguished career for himself. Thursday will be his 548th NHL contest, which makes him noteworthy amongst a string of awful, awful Flames first rounders.
SUM IT UP
With a fully healthy (and signed) roster, the Avalanche are every bit Calgary's equal talent-wise. However, the Flames largely out-played Colorado for 40 minutes at home when they played last month. Sadly, that was followed by a weird, wacky third period where bad luck and inconsistency burned the Flames and gave them a loss.
Life's not full of second chances, but the Flames have a shot to get above .500 once more. Their four previous opportunities to do so were, to be blunt, horrible. Let's hope that's not repeated in Denver.