January 28 2014 03:15PM
(Warning: video includes some cussing, so if you're at work, rock some headphones!)
After a few days off, the Calgary Flames (18-27-7) attempt to finally win three games in a row for the first time this season. Three previous times, the Flames have won a pair. On all three occasions, they lost their next game. Their latest attempt at a three-game streak comes at home against a team they've had a few battles with this year, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (32-10-12).
This is the third and final meeting between these two clubs this year. The home team has won each game by a 3-2 score – the first in Chicago was Reto Berra's excellent debut, the second in Calgary featured the Flames blowing a 2-0 lead with three third-period goals. You may also recall an excellent game between the two clubs last season where the Flames almost derailed the Hawks winning streak in its infancy before the Hawks won a thriller in OT.
The Hawks are reeling, having lost two in a row – and boasting just two regulation wins in their last six outings. A Flames/Hawks game could be just what each team has in mind to either continue their play or right their ship, as the case may be. The puck drops at 7:30pm MT and is the last TSN telecast from the Saddledome for quite awhile.
Line-up via DailyFaceoff:
Hudler – Backlund – Stempniak
Bouma – Stajan – Galiardi
Colborne – Monahan – D.Jones
McGrattan – Street – Westgarth
Brodie – Giordano
Smid - Wideman
Russell – Butler
After being decent but not winning, the Flames have quietly strung together quite a few strong efforts. Mike Cammalleri skated with the team today but likely won't play – because there isn't a roster spot for him. Chris Breen, Paul Byron and (Go) Blair Jones were the extras who worked on stuff with Coach Hartley after practice.
The Flames have gotten offense from the usual suspects of late – Backlund, Monahan, Hudler – but really hope for more secondary scoring and for Cammalleri's imminent return. Despite their lunch-bucket mentality, this is still a team with severe depth issues. They just work hard enough to overcome those issues from time-to-time.
After winning in relief on Friday, Reto Berra gets his 22nd start of the season. He's still looking for his first regulation win. He'll need to be excellent to get it tonight.
Line-up via DailyFaceoff:
Sharp – Toews – Hossa
Versteeg – Pirri – Kane
Bickell – Shaw – Saad
Bollig – Kruger – Smith
Keith – Seabrook
Hjalmarsson – Oduya
Leddy – Brookbank
If Calgary's leading scorer, Jiri Hudler, played for Chicago, he'd be their sixth-leading scorer. Chicago has insane depth. They have three lines that can hurt you and a pretty solid fourth line. They have two excellent defensive pairings. They have two really good goalies. They're sending 10 guys to the Olympics.
The key to beating the Hawks is to play like Boston did in the Finals last year – grind it out. Nobody can out-skill Chicago, so the key is to make the game a contest of wills rather than of skills. Even then, though, they have a strong enough team that you need many things to go your way. Heck, the 3-2 loss in Calgary featured the Flames playing two excellent periods, then Chicago seemed to remember that they're a really good team and they took the game over in the third.
Antti Raanta gets his 17th start of the season. He's lost twice in regulation this season and is curiously the only Blackhawks goalie with a shutout.
SUM IT UP
Calgary's been playing well of late and gets a huge test of their mettle tonight against Chicago. Conversely, an underachieving Blackhawks squad gets a test of their grit and effort tonight against Calgary, who have developed a league-wide reputation for out-working their opposition – or at least trying to.
It should be a very interesting game to watch.