FGD: A Royal Rematch

Ryan Pike
March 10 2014 01:29PM

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A couple weeks back, the Calgary Flames hosted the Los Angeles Kings in their first game back from the Olympics. That was a rusty Flames team that couldn't solve goalie Jonathan Quick, and lost 2-0. Since then, the team's been rather energized by a bunch of recalls.

The pesky Flames boast eight rookies right now - Joni Ortio, Sean Monahan, Joe Colborne, Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Tyler Wotherspoon, Ben Hanowski and Corban Knight. While Abbotsford's line-up is decimated, but at least the organization is able to actually evaluate guys at the NHL level, playing against NHL teams fighting for their playoff lives. (And Edmonton.)

Now the Kings are back, and the Flames should be motivated to prove that they can score a goal - or even beat - the Kings, who played the night before up in Shelbyville.

THE LOCAL BOYS

Your lines for tonight, based on practice and via your besties at DailyFaceoff.com:

Cammmalleri - Backlund - Bouma
Reinhart - Granlund - Byron
Galiardi - Monahan - Colborne
Hanowski - Knight - McGrattan

Giordano - Brodie
Russell - Butler
Smid - Wotherspoon

Ortio

Flames not playing: Stajan (personal), Westgarth (healthy), Glencross (almost healthy), Ramo (knee), Jones (upper body), Wideman (upper body), Hudler (upper body). Per Bob Hartley, Westgarth and Glencross are both really close and will likely play this week, so expect Ben Hanowski to be back in the Lower Mainland soon. (And goodness knows, the Heat could use him.)

Keep an eye on that Reinhart/Granlund/Byron line. Granlund has arguably been the team's most dangerous offensive player, while Byron's been solid since his mid-season recall. And I'm also curious to see how well Knight can do with his linemates, though I hope at some point they flip him onto another line for comparsion's sake - we've seen many a talented player get dragged into the muck because of their placement on the fourth line of this team.

Ortio gets his fifth NHL start. In 4 previous games, he's 2-2-0 with a 2.03 goals against average and .916 save percentage. Granted, sample size, but he's best on the team in GAA and save percentage. But note: at even-strength, he's got a slightly worse save percentage at .902 than Reto Berra did (.903). I wouldn't expect to see Joey MacDonald start much, if at all, down the stretch.

THE ROYAL INVADERS

The Los Angeles Kings played last night, beating the Edmonton Oilers by a 4-2 score. They've won seven straight, including a 2-0 victory in Calgary on February 27. This is the final game of a three-game western Canada trip for LA.

Lines, via DailyFaceoff:

Gaborik - Kopitar - Williams
Toffoli - Richards - Carter
King - Stoll - Brown
Clifford - Lewis - Nolan

Muzzin - Doughty
Voynov - Regehr
Mitchell - Martinez

Jones

The Kings didn't do a full skate today, so we're guessing somewhat that their lines won't change that much. Their extra bodes are Matt Greene and Tanner Pearson. There's also a chance that Jordan Nolan is unavailable for the Kings. He had a phone hearing this afternoon for his sucker-punch on Edmonton's Jesse Joensuu last night, but as of this writing there had been no official word on his status for tonight.

The Kings have been galvanized by the deadline day addition of Marian Gaborik, who's still a dangerous player and adds depth. This club's biggest asset is their size, which arguably is why the Flames has trouble with them - they're both bigger and better than Calgary, so the locals really have to out-work them to have a fighting chance.

Upside? The Kings played last night and may be looking past this game towards the plane ride home to sunny SoCal. Former Hitmen netminder Martin Jones likely makes his first career NHL start in Calgary, and his first appearance on Saddledome ice in nearly four years.

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

The Kings sit snugly in third place in the Pacific Division, 11 points up on the next team. According to Sports Club Stats, they have a 99.2% chance of making the post-season. Calgary sits snugly in 13th in the West, 15 points or so out of a playoff spot, with a 0.02% chance of the playoffs. (Sports Club Stats seems to predict that Calgary finishes the year with between 72 and 77 points.)

This is merely "a game" for each team in terms of post-season implications.

SUM IT UP

It's game 65 for your Calgary Flames. They're one game under .500 at home and have a shot to even things up with a win tonight. But they face a stiff test in a really good Kings squad with a great deal of momentum.

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#51 Kmp
March 10 2014, 10:52PM
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Islander pick is lottery protected, Buffalo won't have it. I can't see Virtanen falling past mid-first. A guy with size and speed and good hands, wouldn't mind seeing the Flames take him with their first or if you could swap the first and a 3rd for Anaheims 2 firsts.

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#52 Stubblejumper
March 11 2014, 08:25AM
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Kmp wrote:

Islander pick is lottery protected, Buffalo won't have it. I can't see Virtanen falling past mid-first. A guy with size and speed and good hands, wouldn't mind seeing the Flames take him with their first or if you could swap the first and a 3rd for Anaheims 2 firsts.

So just to be clear:

You are proposing the Flames give up their first top 5 pick in 30 years in a shallow draft so they can select a player ranked #40 in the first round?

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#53 Kmp
March 11 2014, 10:23AM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

So just to be clear:

You are proposing the Flames give up their first top 5 pick in 30 years in a shallow draft so they can select a player ranked #40 in the first round?

Ranked in the 40s by Button he is much higher on other lists. Speed, size and hands- he may be better at the next level than everyone ranked ahead of him.

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#54 Kmp
March 11 2014, 10:38AM
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@Stubblejumper

ISS has him at 7, Central Scouting has him at 9 among North American skaters. Seeing him get picked in the 2nd round is a pipe dream.

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#55 piscera.infada
March 11 2014, 11:59AM
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@Kmp

I agree it's a pipe dream to get him in the second round, but IMO he's a second-round talent. No way I trade a top-5 pick and a chance at Draisaitl or Bennet to take a guy that's a second round pick. I see more upside in the two other than in Virtanen. I get it, he plays on the Hitmen - I just don't see it. He's very similar size to Draisaitl and Leon has 30 more points on a weaker team. It's a virtual no-brainer in my eyes.

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#56 Stubblejumper
March 11 2014, 12:55PM
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@piscera.infada

Agree there is no way I would trade down a top 5 pick for Virtanen.

kmp ...Virtanen has not shown he is an elite which is what is expected when you draft in the top 5. And trading #5 & #65 Flames picks for #10 & #29 ANA picks makes no sense when the Flames also have #35, #54 & #84 to acquire mid-level talent.

Essentially you would be gambling a high-probability elite talent for a high-risk low-probability that Virtanen could become an elite talent for essentially little net benefit.

However kmp..if ANA threw in Shea Theodore or other top A prospects that could be a different story...

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#57 Kmp
March 11 2014, 02:26PM
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@piscera.infada

Draisaitl is talented, his skating is a weakness, have not seen Bennett play so I can't comment. I don't find any of the top ranked guys that compelling.

I like Virtanens speed, size and shot. I don't see him as a second round talent, reminds me of James Neal.

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#58 Kmp
March 11 2014, 02:32PM
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@Stubblejumper

What's your definition of elite? He is top 10 in the dub in goals. So he isn't a playmaker, he is a wing not a center. Has a great shot, has elite speed plays hard, what's not to like. You can't teach speed or size, but you can teach other facets of the game.

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#59 piscera.infada
March 11 2014, 03:04PM
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@Kmp

Actually, that's strange. The one game (admittedly small sample size), I didn't see Draisaitl's skating to be too bad. His stride and mechanics are better than average, he's just not as explosive as some of the better skaters. That said, he more than makes up for it with plus-plus vision - his vision is outstanding - and his composure (on the power play especially) is unreal for a young guy. Yes, I watched him hawkishly - he's the only reason I went to that particular game.

I've watched Virtanen a lot. I get free tickets (3+ games a month) from work (thank God for co-workers that don't like hockey!). Virtanen is fast, when he wants to be. He also seems to score a lot of his goals when the game's out of hand. Sure, we can speak about players that were seen as "lazy" or "unmotivated by playing junior" that made the show (Getzlaf, Neal, etc.), I just don't hedge my bets that way in the first round of a draft that I assume we can agree is pivotal.

I'll say again, I don't mind Virtanen as a prospect in the later first or early second. I am personally not sold on him as an early first round talent, nor am I trading down with the express reasoning being to take him.

I also note in regards to Draisaitl, that someone in an earlier discussion about him pegged him as a bit of a prima donna (in the mold of a Shinkaruk). I'm wondering if someone can illuminate me as to where they heard/found this information? In a mad dash to try and find something, I've only been able to come up with glowing reviews from coaches, team mates, and the Prince Albert community. I've also heard good things from a few players and refs I know who are currently in the WHL.

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#60 Kmp
March 11 2014, 04:03PM
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@piscera.infada

I liked Draisaitl, until I watched the top prospect game. I would say his skating was well below average, didn't notice it in World Juniors, but you couldn't miss it in that game. He looked like he had extra gravitational force on him.

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