January 20 2014 02:10PM
Fresh off their fisticuffs in Vancouver on Saturday, the Calgary Flames (16-26-7) head down the west coast to face another test in the form of a division rival. The San Jose Sharks (31-12-6) are fifth overall in the NHL, a stark contrast to Calgary's 28th placement in the overall standings.
It's the third meeting of the 2013-14 season between the Flames and the Sharks. The two previous meetings – one each in Calgary and San Jose – were both losses for Calgary. One was a one-sided 6-3 drubbing in the Bay Area (fuelled by the Sharks crazy-good PP scoring three goals), the other was a 3-2 overtime loss in Calgary a month later.
Which Flames team will show up? The October team that got spanked or the November team that grinded out a point? Find out tonight! The puck drops at 8:30pm MT on Sportsnet West, y'all.
After the shenanigans on Saturday, the Flames actually played fairly well, keeping the Canucks to the outside and largely negating their deep top six. They lost because they took too many penalties (and because the Canucks didn't play “their game” until the third). The Sharks are a much deeper team than the Canucks, but the same general approach could be useful.
The Flames didn't do line rushes at this morning's practice in San Jose, so it's guessing games for lines. What we do know is that David Jones and Kris Russell are returning to the line-up from the injured reserve, which pushes T.J. Galiardi and Shane O'Brien to the press box. Ben Street is the other remaining healthy extra body. Mike Cammalleri and Curtis Glencross remain on the IR.
Hudler – Backlund – Stempniak
D.Jones – Stajan - Bouma
Colborne – Monahan – Byron
Westgarth – B.Jones – McGrattan
Brodie – Giordano
Wideman - Smid
Butler – Russell
Ramo starts for the fourth time in the last five games. Calgary's offense continues to be primarily Jiri Hudler-based (he's got 18 more points than the next-closest player, and has more assists than any other player has points), with occasional flashes from Mikael Backlund and a rotating cast of characters.
The Sharks have been bit by the injury bug much worse than the Flames of late. They enter tonight's game without Raffi Torres, Scott Hannan, Adam Burish, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. Despite all of this, they're still a pretty good hockey club. While the Flames were battling the Canucks on Saturday, the Sharks were involved in a track meet with the Tampa Bay Lightning – Joe Pavelski had a hat trick.
Lines, via DailyFaceoff:
Pavelski – Thornton – Burns
Nieto – Marleau – Wingels
Kearns – Desjardins – Kennedy
Sheppard – McCarthy – Hayes/Brown
Irwin – Boyle
Vlasic – Demers
Stuart – Braun
The Sharks have won three in a row, four of their last five and five of their last seven. In 2014, they're 6-2-0. Conversely, the Flames are 2-6-1 this year. The Sharks have a much more balanced attack than Calgary – Thornton, Pavelski and Marleau drive things, but other guys have gotten hot from time-to-time to balance things out.
Calgary's defense will definitely have their hands full tonight.
SUM IT UP
On Saturday, the Calgary Flames showed that, despite recent disappointments, they still have some fight left in them. They're going to need to be at their best tonight against one of the NHL's best hockey clubs. They showed they can stand toe-to-toe with them back in November. But in San Jose's barn, they'll need to set the tone early and, like they did against Vancouver, somehow suck the Sharks into playing their style of game.
Otherwise, it could be a very long night for the visitors.