March 18 2014 03:00PM
Tonight's game is the 69th game of the regular season for your Calgary Flames, and also the 69th for the visiting Buffalo Sabres. Neither team is on the way to the playoffs. Both teams are looking forward to the NHL Draft and next season. Both teams have rosters plum full of guys from the AHL - and guys fighting for NHL jobs.
That's one of the reasons this game could actually be pretty fun.
The big news today was the arrival of Kenny Agostino, fresh from Yale University and with a freshly-inked NHL contract. He's wearing #51 now, but likely will not play tonight. Friday's a safe bet, though. Corban Knight's down to Abbotsford and Matt Stajan's back, so the lines look a tiny bit different.
Via Daily Faceoff!
Bouma - Backlund - Byron
Cammalleri - Monahan - Colborne
Glencross - Stajan - McGrattan
Hanowski - Galiardi - Westgarth
Giordano - Brodie
Butler - Russell
Smid - Wotherspoon
Out for the Flames: Karri Ramo (knee), Jiri Hudler (upper body), David Jones (upper body), Markus Granlund (upper body) and Dennis Wideman (upper body). Kenny Agostino is the lone healthy scratch.
Joni Ortio makes his 8th start - tying Joey MacDonald for appearances this year. Ortio's 3-4-0 with a 2.33 goals against average and a .904 save percentage, both of which are better than MacDonald. But sample size and all that.
As seems to be Bob Hartley's way, he's starting a veteran coming in off a long absence on a third line with McGrattan. I'm not 100% sold that Stajan will stay there, but it's a nice way to ease him in (and to keep the top two lines, which have been working well, together). When Agostino's ready, I imagine he knocks Ben Hanowski to the press box.
Is anyone else amazed that each of three players on Calgary's top line are (a) 25 and under and (b) were healthy scratches during this season? Amazing how much each guy has progressed over the last 68 games.
It's been a rough year in Buffalo. They have just 19 wins, with 7 of them on the road, and they've been a bit of a circus both on and off the ice. But on the other hand, there's a lot of young kids getting a shot to play, so that's exciting. And they'll get better in a hurry next year, as they have a ton of draft picks.
Lines from Daily Faceoff!
Conacher - Ennis - Stafford
Foligno - Hodgson - Flynn
Mitchell - Leino - D'Agostino
Deslauriers - Ellis - Scott
Ristolainen - Ehrhoff
Ruhwedel - Tallinder
McBain - Weber
Out for the Sabres: Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth, Tyler Myers, Chris Stewart, Zemgus Girgensons and Alexander Sulzer. Zenon Konopka is a healthy scratch.
WHL vet Nathan Lieuwen makes his first NHL start for the Sabres after coming into their game in Montreal in relief, while Matt Hackett is up from AHL Rochester to back him up. The Sabres are riding a six-game losing skid, and last won on March 6 in Tampa. Calgary eked out a win over this group back in December, back before the Sabres well off a cliff and just before the Flames went through their "can't score a goal" phase.
There's a lot of potential in this line-up, but so far it's unrealized potential.
SUM IT UP
The NHL's worst and fifth-worst teams are tangling tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome! The game has virtually no bearing on draft position or playoff races. The biggest implications are for the AHL call-ups that are auditioning for jobs on both sides of the ice.