March 21 2013 01:00PM
For the twelfth time this season, the Calgary Flames are entering a game with a record just below .500 and hope to get back to even with a win. Thus far this season, their 11 previous attempts have resulted in a 6-4-1 record, which would be great if they managed to win more when entering a game with a .500 record.
Now, in the midst of an extended win-one, lose-one stretch, the Flames really need a win and really need to get back from .500. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Tonight's game is the first of a back-to-back – tonight in Nashville, tomorrow in Columbus – that sees Calgary begin to use up their games in hand. Entering Thursday, the Flames had two (or three) games in hand on literally every other Western Conference team. If they put together wins over the next 48 hours, they can get to within two points of a playoff spot – with games still in hand.
Puck drop is at 6pm on your various Sportsnet sports broadcasting properties.
The Flames are coming off of a 4-3 loss in Dallas on Monday night. According to Roger Millions and Pat Steinberg, the team will look a bit different tonight. Here are likely line combinations:
- Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
- Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
- Comeau – Backlund – Hudler
- McGrattan – Begin – Jackman
- Brodie – Bouwmeester
- Giordano – Wideman
- Sarich – Butler
In summation: Kiprusoff has returned from child-birth and will start. Cory Sarich subs in for Derek Smith. Steve Begin subs in for Roman Cervenka, who, I think we can safely say at this point, isn't being sat for "health reasons".
Biggest head-scratcher may be the Sarich sub-in, although Smith has been merely “fine” and I'd wager that he's back for the Columbus game. Ditto Cervenka. The Flames have three lines clicking right now and merely need to come out in the first period with some form of urgency. Any form, really.
Iginla had perhaps his best game of the last month against Dallas, but just could not score.
Like the Flames, Nashville is coming off a 4-3 road loss. Theirs came in Columbus on Tuesday night. Lines for tonight weren't immediately available, so here's roughly how they looked on Tuesday:
- Mueller – Legwand – Bourque
- Beck – Fisher – Erat
- Boychuk (gone) – Spaling – Halischuk
- Clune – Smith - Yip
- Weber – Josi
- Ellis – Blum
- Klein – Bartley
Either Bobby Butler or Sergei Kostitsyn will replace Boychuk in the line-up, as he's been claimed on waivers by Carolina. I'd lean towards Kostitsyn. If so, let's hope he shows the same level of try and tenacity he displayed against the Oil.
Pekka Rinne has been lit up (and chased) recently – most recently against the Flames last week. The Preds are also injury-hobbled and their forward roster is full of, to be blunt, random dudes. If Bob Hartley can line-match a bit, the Flames could make some hay in Music City.
SUM IT UP
The Flames need points. They've beaten the Predators convincingly recently, and really need to do it again. As much as the road losing streak hangs over the team, they have to put it out of their minds and go to work. Miikka Kiprusoff should be able to hold the team in the game, so as long as the club can score on Pekka Rinne (and undermine his likely flagging confidence), they have a good shot here.
Next stop: .500.