February 05 2013 01:58PM
After spending five of their first six games at home, the Calgary Flames head out of town for their first real road trip of the season beginning tonight. First up? A date with the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (5:30pm MT, televised on Sportsnet West and radioed by Sportsnet 960 The Fan).
Before you get too worked up, this ain't your mother's Red Wings team. First of all, there's no Jiri Hudler, Nicklas Lidstrom or Tomas Holmstrom in Motown. Hudler, as you may know, is playing for the Flames now. Lidstrom and Holmstrom retired. Brad Stuart left for the Sharks. And there are a few folks injured besides. Altogether, the Red Wings are missing seven regulars from their line-up.
The Flames are 1-3-2 on the year, while the Red Wings are a comparably massive 4-3-1. Last season the teams split their four meetings evenly. They each even scored the same number of goals on each other. All-time, the Red Wings have won one more game than the Flames have head-to-head, so there's bragging rights on the line.
And a pair of points that the Flames desperately, desperately need.
The Flames lost a heart-breaker on Saturday against the Blackhawks but everyone – media and coaches alike – seemed very impressed with how the team basically dominated Chicago and lost due to some epically horrible luck.
Friend of the site Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) reported no changes at Monday's early morning practice at the Corral prior to the Flames jetting out to Detroit. According to Tuesday's morning skate, your designated scratches will be Tim Jackman and Cory Sarich.
- Cammalleri – Tanguay – Iginla
- Glencross – Backlund – Stempniak
- Hudler – Stajan – Cervenka
- Comeau – Jones – Begin
- Bouwmeester – Giordano
- Wideman – Brodie
- Smith – Butler
Anton Babchuk has been cleared for contact and is traveling with the team, but is a ways away from slotting back in.
As you may notice, there's a shocking amount of balance between the top three lines. Hartley's tended to (smartly) give the Iginla and Stajan lines the offensive-zone high ground, but as the games progress (and depending on situation) he's also sent the Czechs into the defensive zone.
Now if only Glencross and Iginla can start to light the lamp...
The Wings have been utterly ravaged by injuries but have still managed to keep their heads above water in the standings. They'll be without Darren Helm, Jan Mursak, Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Brendan Smith, Joey MacDonald, Jonas Gustavsson and (maybe) Ian White. As of yesterday's practice, here's their most likely lines, courtesy Ansar Khan at MLive.com.
- Franzen – Zetterberg – Brunner
- Filippula – Datsyuk – Tatar
- Cleary - Abdelkader – Bertuzzi
- Miller – Emmerton - Tootoo
- Kronwall – Ericsson
- Quincey – Lashoff
- Huskins – Kindl
Ian White, who led the Wings in scoring against Calgary last year, practiced with the team on Monday but didn't skate in a pairing. He hopes to play, but I'd expect him to be (a) a game-time decision and (b) on the second-pairing if he does swap in, likely at Lashoff's expense.
In an odd quirk of the AHL and NHL schedules, Tomas Tatar and goalie Petr Mrazek played for the Grand Rapids Griffins and beat the Abbotsford Heat 1-0 on Saturday, and now they'll play on the big club against the Flames.
Overall, the Wings have survived quite well without the bodies they're missing. Damian Brunner's fit in admirably, but the team really doesn't have the depth they once had. I mean, Jordin Tootoo is on their team, their bottom-six doesn't really drive the play and their defense is a bit scary.
SUM IT UP
The Chicago Blackhawks are an excellent hockey team that the Flames just took it to on Saturday night, losing through a horrible run of luck. The Detroit Red Wings are not quite as good as the Blackhawks, and the Flames can't keep being this unlucky, right?
Well, it's entirely possible, but it's not likely.
So if the Flames play as well as they did against Chicago, and Jimmy Howard doesn't become the next Ray Emery, there's a good chance that Calgary can leave Michigan with some points. When you consider that the Wings are utterly ravaged by injuries, the Flames won't have a better chance to cash in on Detroit than they have right now.