March 18 2013 01:20PM
The Calgary Flames hit the road for a three-game swing this week, one that will probably tip the scales regarding their playoff fate. That is, unless they go 1-1-1, in which case they'll tread water.
Nonetheless, the Flames begin their trip with a jaunt to Dallas to visit the Stars for their third meeting of the year. Calgary (11-11-4) previously beat Dallas twice – once on February 13 by a 7-4 score and once on February 17 by a 4-3 margin. Now the Flames face them one more time, again with a back-up netminder between the pipes.
Can the Flames continue their success against Big D? Or will their 1-5-1 record when trying to get over the .500 hump be a portent of doom? Find out live on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan at 6:30pm.
The Flames are 2-0 against the Stars this year, but oddly enough, they've become incredibly streaky since their last meet-up with Dallas. Since their February 17 game, the Flames have lost twice, won twice, lost twice, won twice, lost three times and, now, won twice. They have got to find a way to halt that trend and keep their winning ways.
Tonight they'll have to do it without Miikka Kiprusoff (child birth). Kiprusoff is home with his wife, expecting his second child (Oscar Kiprusoff!), while Backlund is on the trip but unlikely to play according to Sportsnet's Roger Millions. Danny Taylor has re-joined the team as a back-up.
That probably allows Roman Cervenka to slot back in. Lines will likely start off something like this.
UPDATE (5pm MT): Roger Millions is indicating that Backlund WILL play tonight.
- Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
- Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
- Comeau – Backlund – Hudler
- McGrattan – Begin – Jackman
- Brodie – Bouwmeester
- Giordano – Wideman
- Smith – Butler
That second line has been dynamite. The trio has combined for 5 goals, 14 points and a +15 rating over the past two games and they have been driving the bus offensively at even-strength. Almost as cold as is Jarome Iginla, who somehow had zero points over a pair of games where his team scored 10 goals.
The absence of Kiprusoff will be notable. Granted, the Flames have won without their starting netminder – they were above .500 without him – but he was excellent over the past two games and if you're looking for a way to halt Calgary's momentum, taking Kiprusoff out is a great way to do it.
The Stars are floundering a bit, having lost four straight – including three in a row at home – culminating with an 8-1 beatdown by Chicago on Saturday. Their trouble? Lack of scoring, with their team scoring three goals over the past four contests while allowing 15 goals. Eeep.
Dallas (12-12-3) is perched just above Calgary in the standings, and it's hard to tell if that's where they belong. The Stars have been hobbled by injuries at times, but they've been almost as hindered by inconsistency from their roster. A 8-1 butt-whuppin' probably doesn't do much for the team's confidence.
From Roger Millions' Twitter, the likely Dallas lines:
- Whitney – Benn – Eriksson
- Morrow – Roy – Cole
- Smith – Eakin – Jagr
- Nystrom – Fiddler – Roussel
- Larsen – Daley
- Robidas – Oleksiak
- Benn – Dillon
SUM IT UP
The Flames are at .500, sit four points back of eighth-place San Jose, and have a game in hand. Oh, and they have two or three games in hand on literally every team between them and San Jose in the standings and are beginning a road trip where they play the three teams immediately ahead of them (Dallas, Nashville and Columbus).
I'm not saying this is a make-or-break stretch, but the Flames simply will not get a better chance to get back into the thick of things than they will this week. Kiprusoff or no Kiprusoff, there's no better way to start off a roadie than against a team that got stomped last game and hasn't won in over a week.