April 21 2013 11:25AM
We're into the last four games of the 2013 Calgary Flames season. It ends on the road, so those of you cheering for losses and good odds in the draft lottery can rejoice, because the Flames have been downright lousy on the road this year. They boast the league's 15th best home record and 29th best road record, which is how they enter the game at 25th overall with a 18-22-4 record.
Despite all the injuries, inconsistency and everything else, Calgary can still finish at .500. It's a minor miracle.
To aid the Flames in their battle with the Minnesota Wild tonight (4pm MT on Sportsnet West and The Fan 960), the club has recalled seven guys from the AHL's Abbotsford Heat: goalie Leland Irving, defender Mark Cundari and forwards Akim Aliu, Carter Bancks, Paul Byron, Blair Jones and Ben Street. Now that the Heat are done for the year, these guys will get tested at the big-league level to see if there's a spot for them in the new regime. Also, to sort of, maybe help the team win a better draft position.
The Flames have gone 5-4-0 since that 8-2 shellacking from the Oilers on deadline day. What's their secret? They've been playing the kids, and the kids have been doing pretty well. Max Reinhart has 2 points in 8 games. Backlund has 5 points in their last 9 games. Baertschi has a four-game points streak and has 5 points in his recent 7-game recall. Horak has 5 points since the deadline. Also, the goaltending hasn't been terrible for perhaps the first time this season.
As per the Flames, who posted Bob Hartley's line-up card on Twitter, here's how the lines shake out for your hockey heroes.
- Baertschi – Backlund – Cammalleri
- Reinhart – Horak – Hudler
- Byron – Street – Stempniak
- Jackman – Stajan – Hanowski
- Brodie – Cundari
- Giordano – Sarich
- Butler – Carson
Scratched: Aliu, Bancks, Begin, Cervenka, Jones, McGrattan, Babchuk, Irving
Injured: Glencross, Tanguay, Smith, Wideman
I love that first line, to be honest. Mark Cundari (wearing 42) makes his NHL debut with the Flames. He's been compared to a Mark Giordano, given that he plays with a bee in his bonnet (well, not literally, the NHL has banned bonnets since the 1912 season). Also, keep an eye on who wears letters for the Flames – third alternate captain Curtis Glencross is done for the year with a knee injury, so either the club will dress two alternates (Giordano and Cammalleri) or they'll stitch a third A on somebody.
And finally, pour a bottle out for your dearly departed minor-league friends. Danny Taylor, Lance Bouma and Chris Breen are injured, so nobody expected them to get recalled. But if you're under an NHL contract, are healthy and didn't get the recall – looking at you, Kolanos, Nemisz, Walter, Testwuide, Lamb – it's probably not a good sign. Granted, the Flames no doubt didn't want to have too many bodies on the road with them this late in the season, but if they aren't trying to evaluate you at the NHL level, you might not have an NHL future.
As per the Wild's site, here's probable lines for the home side:
- Coyle – Koivu – Parise
- Pominville – Brodziak – Bouchard
- Zucker – Cullen – Setoguchi
- Clutterbuck – Mitchell – Granlund
- Brodin – Suter
- Clark – Spurgeon
- Gilbert – Stoner
Scratched: Prosser, Falk
Injured: Harding, Rupp, Heatley, Konopka
The Wild have taken three of four meetings with Calgary this year – winning once each in regulation, overtime and the shootout. In a classy move, the team will be putting up Ben Hanowski's St. Cloud State hockey teammates in a box tonight. It should be no great surprise if Hanowski's teammates cheer for the team in green and red this evening.
Minnesota's on their way to the post-season and likely hoping that Calgary's bunch of young upstarts plays a playoff-style game tonight. It's probably a good hope to have, as that's how the Flames have been playing in their last nine games.
If the draft lottery happened today, the Flames would begin at sixth overall and have a 6.2% chance of winning the lottery and picking first overall. The Flames (40 points) cannot be caught by last-place Florida (32 points), so let's ignore them. Carolina (37) plays Tampa Bay (38), Colorado (35) plays St. Louis and Anaheim plays Edmonton (41) today.
SUM IT UP
The Calgary Flames will dress eight guys who spent significant time in the AHL or college tonight. They're starting their back-up goalie. They're missing four regulars, including two of their regular top-six forwards. Nobody will be too sad if the team loses.
But we've said that for the last nine games and this rag-tag group has responded well to whatever Bob Hartley is preaching. Don't be too surprised if the Flames give the Wild a bit of a fight.