April 17 2013 12:22PM
We're down to the nitty-gritty, folks, as the Flames (16-22-4) can mathematically be eliminated from the post-season (and get a little closer to a high draft pick) with a loss tonight against the Detroit Red Wings (20-15-7).
Tonight's game starts at 7:30 on TSN and your radio friends at Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
The kids will continue to be the item of interest down the stretch, but the top story tonight may be Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff. Suiting up for the 574th time as a Calgary Flame, he may be playing one of his last contests in the Scotiabank Saddledome. Flames coach Bob Hartley noted after practice that Kiprusoff will play tonight and Friday, as well.
Besides Kiprusoff making his first start in awhile, the other big story is the return of Matt Stajan to the Flames line-up. Before his upper-body injury, Stajan was one of Calgary's best, most consistent players. He'll replace Roman Cervenka in the line-up which, all due respect to the Czech player, is probably an upgrade.
Here's how the lines look according to Pat Steinberg:
- Baertschi - Stajan - Stempniak
- Glencross - Backlund - Hudler
- Cammalleri - Horak - Hanowski
- Begin - Reinhart - Jackman
- Brodie - Wideman
- Giordano - Sarich
- Butler - Carson
Wunderkind Ben Hanowski has cut his hair, so please remember that he's wearing #58 for your hockey heroes. He joins a few good group of young players with ridiculously high numbers: Sven Baertschi (#47), Roman Horak (#51) and Max “Power” Reinhart (#59) are the others.
The Red Wings are a pretty good hockey team and have been for awhile. However, they're in a fight for their playoff lives lately and may actually miss the playoffs for the first time since 1989-90.
However, the Wings have been helping out their own cause lately, going 2-1-2 in their last five and finding ways to get points any which way they can. They most recently blanked the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Sunday night, so they're rested.
Here's how their lines may look:
- Zetterberg - Datsyuk - Abdelkader
- Franzen - Filippula - Cleary
- Nyquist - Andersson - Brunner
- Miller - Emmerton - Tootoo
- Kronwall - Ericsson
- DeKeyser - Kindl
- White - Smith
The Wings have some strong top-six players. The Flames beat them handily during their last visit to the 'Dome, but that was primarily due to some terrifying defensive zone play and some awful goaltending from Jonas Gustavsson, who won't play tonight.
Detroit's in desperation mode, needing a win to give them breathing room – they're tied with Columbus (at 47 points) with a game in hand, with Dallas just two points back.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are playing for next year. The Wings are playing for the playoffs. The Flames are in audition mode. The Wings are in desperation mode.
On the other hand, the Saddledome will be filled to the brim with emotion, as the fans prepare to possibly say goodbye to #34. If that emotion spills over to the Flames players, this could be quite the hockey game.