March 26 2013 01:47PM
The Calgary Flames hit the ice for their 31st game of the 2013 season tonight. They'll try to get the road monkey off their back as they visit the Chicago Blackhawks, and one way or the other, history will be made.
If the Flames win, it'd be their first victory in Chicago since March 16, 2008 (yes, five years) and push the Blackhawks to their first three-game losing skid of the year. If the Flames lose, it'll extend their road winless streak to ten games and bring them a step closer to their franchise record 1973 13-game road winless mark. And a game closer to formal playoff elimination, of course.
The puck drops at 6:30pm on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and Sportsnet West.
The Flames crept to within two games of the lofty perch of .500 hockey on Sunday with a gutsy 3-2 win over St. Louis. Jaroslav Halak was okayish and Miikka Kiprusoff was excellent, and that was the difference.
Expect a very similar line-up in Chicago, with perhaps a tweak on defense. Here are some probable lines.
The Backlund trio was getting the majority of the defensive zone starts against the Blues, showing that the coaching staff has some faith in Backlund (and the Czechs) ability to gain some ground. Either that or they wanted to give the Iginla line as much high ground as they could. Either way, it worked (in the sense that the Flames won the game).
With Chicago hosting Los Angeles on Monday night, Tuesday's game is the tenth time this year that the Flames will play a team that played the night before. In nine previous outings in such a situation, the Flames have gone 6-2-1.
The Blackhawks were once mighty – and let's not forget that if not for some bad luck, the Flames had them beat back at the beginning of the season – but lately they've had some bad luck. They boast a scary 24-4-3 record, but they've gone 3-4-0 in their last seven outings, including back-to-back losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles.
They played last night (marking the eleventy-billionth time the Flames have seen a tired opponent on the second night of a B2B) and had no formal skate today, with only the injured Sharp and the previously-scratched Carcillo, Hossa and Brookbank skating this morning. That makes me believe that they'll dress a similar line-up as last night's.
Michael Frolik was elevated from his typical 3rd/4th line slot and managed two goals and and an assist in the loss to the Kings last night. He is a favorite Flames target of Kent's, so keep an eye on him tonight.
Corey Crawford started last night and gave up five goals, so it should be Ray Emery in net. Crawford has a .933 even-strength save percentage while Emery “lags” behind him with a .927. These numbers are likely going to gradually drift down to Earth a bit, but they're a big source of the Hawks' success this season.
The Blackhawks have good depth – that defensive group looks great – and has a good sprinkling of youth throughout their line-up. That said, they'll be smarting and tired from back-to-back games, so it's up to the Flames to take advantage.
SUM IT UP
The clock is ticking on the Flames playoff hopes (a 6.5% chance, according to Sports Club Stats) and for them to have any chance of success, they need to win games (a) on the road and (b) in buildings where they have struggled and (c) almost all of the games left anyways.
No better place to start than in sweet home Chicago.
FN Viewing Party at TK - Iginla's Final Game?
Next Monday (April 1) FlamesNation will host a Flames Game Viewing Party at the Tilted Kilt. It's April Fool's Day, the Battle of Alberta and potentially Jarome Iginla's last game as a Calgary Flame all rolled into one.
If that's not enough reasons to come out and have a few pops while watching the game, TK is also giving away a Flames jersey during the night and will have their usual "puck contest"going, with free beers as the prizes. On top of all that, they'll have 20oz pints of Canadian and Coors on for $5.50 all night long.
So bring the friends and family next Monday to the Tilted Kilt and help us celebrate another Flames win over the Oilers. And maybe Jarome's last night as a Calgary Flame to boot.