FGD: Blue Travelers Return Home

Ryan Pike
March 24 2013 02:34PM

The Calgary Flames return home to the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome to host the St. Louis Blues tonight. Game time is 6pm on Fan 960 and Sportsnet West.

The Flames are in must-win territory, having lost six of their last eight games, assuming they have any shot at the playoffs at all. Oddly enough, though, they've won six in a row at home and gone winless in nine on the road. The home wins have mostly come against good teams, and that home cooking will need to continue if they're to have any hope of a playoff berth or a respectable finish down the stretch.

A loss will put the Flames four games below .500, a position they haven't been since November 2011 (for a single game).

THE LINE-UP

The coaching staff has shuffled the deck a bit prior to tonight's game. Via Roger Millions' Twitter (@rogmillions), here are probable line combinations for the Flames.

  • Tanguay – Cammalleri – Comeau
  • Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Hudler – Backlund – Iginla
  • McGrattan – Begin – Jackman

  • Brodie – Bouwmeester
  • Giordano – Wideman
  • Butler – Sarich

  • Kiprusoff

Kiprusoff's starting his fourth in a row, despite losing three straight and posting a .866 save percentage – easily the lowest of the NHL's regular starting goalies. But it's a must-win game, so he'll get starts in these situations until the team is officially out of it. Cervenka and Smith take a seat tonight, while Backlund makes his way back in. He'll skate with Iginla and Hudler on the third line.

Note that the excellent second line has been kept together, as has the fourth line, which has been quietly effective for the Flames. Curtis Glencross has scored a point in five straight games (and seven of his last eight), and has scored 11 of his 13 goals this season on home ice.

THE OPPOSITION

The Blues are doing well. They're ninth-best in the NHL with a 17-11-2 record, mostly due to the fact they have given up the fewest shots against in the entire league. The Blues beat Edmonton 3-0 last night in the Hockey Night in Canada late game, so are on the second night of a B2B (like so many of the Flames home opponents this year).

Here are their probable line combinations, based on how they lined up last night.

  • Backes – Steen – Stewart
  • McDonald – Berglund – Oshie
  • Tarasenko – Sobotka – Perron
  • Schwartz – Nichol – Porter

  • Jackman – Pietrangelo
  • Russell – Polak
  • Redden – Shattenkirk

  • Halak

I'm guessing that Halak gets another start after winning last night, but they may throw Jake Allen back in. The Blues are carrying three goalies right now and Allen has the most wins and best save percentage, beating both Halak and Brian Elliott.

The Blues depth is readily apparent, with a strong top six, a couple good rookies in Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, and a very strong defensive group. Chris Stewart has been in and out of Ken Hitchcock's doghouse since the former Dallas bench boss arrived, but the big winger is nevertheless one of the hottest scorers in the league right now having managed six goals in his last five games. Stewart is a guy who can run hot and cold and is generally a libility when the puck isn't going in the net, but a handful for the defense when things are going his way. Stewart is also currently skating with David Backes - the Blues best all around player - so the Flames will have to be aware of him tonight.

SUM IT UP

The Flames have been losing of late, it's true, but their great home streak is keeping them afloat. A loss tonight drops them to four games below .500 with 18 games to go. Suddenly, a losing stretch would threaten to become a free-fall.

They cannot afford to let that happen and still have a hope at a post-season berth. If they lose, expect some major changes. Actually even if they win, expect some major changes.

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#101 ChinookArch
March 24 2013, 08:50PM
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@Kent Wilson

You can tell Hartley feels the same way about his bottom 3 defenders. He rotates them in and out of the line according to their play, and sitting Babchuk permenantly.

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#102 Vintage Flame
March 24 2013, 08:50PM
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Flames will be lucky to keep this shot total under 50 tonight

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#103 RexLibris
March 24 2013, 08:51PM
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Wow.

That is one to remember.

Good timing.

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#104 ChinookArch
March 24 2013, 08:51PM
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Make it a game winner! For the love of God!

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#105 RexLibris
March 24 2013, 08:52PM
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I really hope that is the game winner. For fans and Iginla.

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#106 Brent G.
March 24 2013, 08:53PM
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It's a little sad to think about but that very well could be it. His way of going out on "top"

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#107 Vintage Flame
March 24 2013, 08:54PM
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NOW it's a fan appreciation night.

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#108 Kent Wilson
March 24 2013, 08:54PM
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Haha. Quite the, uh, goal for Jarome. Good to see him get one at home.

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#109 RexLibris
March 24 2013, 09:01PM
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1:54 to go. The shots are pretty lopsided so far. Suspect this will be a nailbiter.

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#110 RKD
March 24 2013, 09:02PM
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Iginla is increasing his trade value with every goal score, point # 1,095 as a Flame. Iggy just passed Bryan Trottier for 32nd all time goal scoring in NHL history with #525.

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#111 Mullen Mania
March 24 2013, 09:03PM
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I can't remember are we cheering for wins or losses? :)

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#112 RexLibris
March 24 2013, 09:04PM
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Mullen Mania wrote:

I can't remember are we cheering for wins or losses? :)

Yes.

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#113 Mullen Mania
March 24 2013, 09:07PM
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Hey, the wins still feel good!

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#114 RexLibris
March 24 2013, 09:07PM
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Watching Kiprusoff tonight, is there a chance his knee isn't completely healed? He seems to struggle to get to his feet often, almost as though his balance is off.

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#115 ChinookArch
March 24 2013, 09:07PM
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Very happy to see Kiprusoff get the win and Iginla with the winner. That felt good, a little odd . . .

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#116 schevvy
March 24 2013, 09:09PM
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The tears are flowing...this is so emotional

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#117 Slash
March 24 2013, 09:09PM
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@RexLibris

Thanks Rex. That Ian what I have been seeing.

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#118 Kent Wilson
March 24 2013, 09:09PM
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Kipper special and Iginla scored the GWG to boot.

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#119 the forgotten man
March 24 2013, 09:09PM
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RKD wrote:

Iginla is increasing his trade value with every goal score, point # 1,095 as a Flame. Iggy just passed Bryan Trottier for 32nd all time goal scoring in NHL history with #525.

Except Trottier has 6 Stanley cup rings...at the end of the day that is all that matters.

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#120 ChinookArch
March 24 2013, 09:11PM
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RexLibris wrote:

Watching Kiprusoff tonight, is there a chance his knee isn't completely healed? He seems to struggle to get to his feet often, almost as though his balance is off.

I bet it puts a lot of stress on the knee. I heard Rhet Warner talk about how tough Kipprusoff was. He's clearly playing through the pain.

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#121 negrilcowboy
March 24 2013, 09:14PM
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the forgotten man wrote:

Except Trottier has 6 Stanley cup rings...at the end of the day that is all that matters.

and a defebsive force, top face off man etc etc

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#122 ChinookArch
March 24 2013, 09:20PM
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the forgotten man wrote:

Except Trottier has 6 Stanley cup rings...at the end of the day that is all that matters.

By that measure Dave Semenko is better than Jerome. Much better since he has 2.

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#123 RKD
March 24 2013, 09:23PM
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the forgotten man wrote:

Except Trottier has 6 Stanley cup rings...at the end of the day that is all that matters.

I know that I'm just reporting a fact.

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#124 RexLibris
March 24 2013, 09:35PM
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@ChinookArch

Having gone through some minor knee issues, I can't imagine that even a sprain in one's mid to late 30s really heals all that well.

Makes me wonder if he holds his retirement press conference at the end of the Flames' season.

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#125 RexLibris
March 24 2013, 09:38PM
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Flames now in 26th place. One point back of the Oilers with the same # of games player, one more win, but fewer OTLs.

Makes the next few games a little more interesting for fans of the two clubs. It isn't the playoffs, but a contest to see who is the least bad is something right? Maybe not.

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#126 Vintage Flame
March 24 2013, 10:24PM
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Post game is up

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