March 10 2014 01:29PM
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
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
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.
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.