March 03 2014 12:26PM
GRANLUND Vs GRANLUND. PARISE Vs BRODIE. COOKE Vs THE FLAMES. MCGRATTAN Vs THE PUCK.
Yes, it will be another nostalgic Northwest division showdown in Minny tonight, with the Flames welcoming back some familiar faces and trying out some new lines against the Wild, who are firmly seated in the first wildcard position in the Western Conference.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing story lines is the fact that Markus Granlund will be taking on his older brother Mikael for the first time (hopefully of many) in the NHL. Mikael was a top-ten pick (Markus was taken 45th in 2011) for the Wild in the 2010 NHL draft and has had a difficult time adjusting to being a full-time NHLer. But after a strong Olympics he seems to be settling in and is having easily his best season as a pro in North America.
Have a look at the rosters after the jump
There are quite a few roster switches for this evening's tilt. Matt Stajan is out of the lineup for personal reasons (seems like it's baby season in Flamesland), while Brian McGrattan and Lee Stempniak return to the lineup after missing the first two games after the Olympic break. Here are the lines from DailyFaceoff.com
Cammalleri - Backlund - D. Jones
Hudler - Monahan - Stempniak
Byron - Granlund - Colborne
Bouma - Galiardi - McGrattan
Giordano - Brodie
Russell - Butler
Smid - Wideman
The Matt Stajan casualty likely brought about the splitting up of the kid line from last game (Colborne - Monahan - Granlund) but in it's place is another pretty interesting line with #LordByron, Granlund, and Colborne all playing together. This one is especially interesting because we will get to see what Granlund, a natural centreman, can do in the middle with some halfway decent linemates.
I have been pretty impressed with Colborne's play of late, as he is starting to show that he is able to use his frame along the wall. I am still not sure if he is an NHL calibre skater yet though. Byron, whom I love, has played well in any role given to him by the club this season and set up Monahan's OT winner on Saturday against our pitiful northern kinfolk.
Stempniak will return after being away from the team for an extended period of time to welcome the birth of his new twin girls which is awesome. He'll play tonight with Monahan and Hudler and will hopefully be able to hit the ground running. I, and everyone else here, think that it is exceedingly likely that this could be one of Stempniak's final games as a Flame as he figures to be one of the Flames dealt in the next 48 hours. As to what his return would be? I would have to speculate that it would be marginal, a mid-rounder perhaps. But I am sure there are others here at the nation that have more learned opinions when it comes to this sort of thing.
During the 2-1 defeat of that lovable arctic cannon fodder, Kevin Westgarth squared off with Luke Gadzic and it didn't end well for the former Princeton Tiger:
Right off the bat, Hughson nails it: "Well, this was very predictable."
I know I have said this a million times but these kinds of things get harder and harder to watch. If fighting has a place in the game, and I have become exceedingly skeptical of this premise in the past few seasons, this is most certainly not it. In my view, staged fighting has no place in the game and accomplishes exactly nothing as far as the playing of the game is concerned. This fight took place after the 1-0 Monahan goal and galvanized both teams to not score for the remainder of the first and the entire second. After the game, players were quick to sympathize with Westgarth, the recipient of a concussion and could barely skate to the bench (which was stomach turning to watch). However, it just seems anachronistic to have Sean Monahan extolling the virtues of Westgarth "going to war" when it has zero impact on the game itself. If the act of fighting itself is what is praiseworthy, then in theory a staged fight should produce the same effect for both teams. I just don't see the point of it anymore.
So, with no Westgarth in the lineup tonight, the Flames rectify this by replacing him with McGrattan. Perhaps this isn't the place to start an anti-fighting rant, but it is getting more and more difficult to watch this bafoonery and know that your favourite team is a major contributor to its continued existence.
On to happier topics! Reto Berra has sucked a lot less these past few games! His SV% in his last four starts read as follows: .962, .933, .913, and .955. Small sample size yes, but he has played very well of late and has given the Flames a chance to win most nights. However, his last sub .900 outing was against the Wild, the exact game that Ramo was injured. The Flames won that game 4-3 in overtime but Berra allowed three goals on 17 shots.
THE WILD ( I STILL THINK THIS IS A DUMB NAME)
"A minor league player" - Zach Parise on T.J Brodie.
Never forget those prophetic words from the then New Jersey Devil, Zach Parise. He nailed that one.Here is the roster of the the Wild from Dailyfaceoff.com
Parise - Granlund - Pominville
Heatley - Koivu - Coyle
Cooke - Brodziak - Neiderreiter
Fontaine - Haula - Mitchell
Suter - Spurgeon
Brodin - Prosser
Scandella - Ballard
Yes, this will be the Granlundbowl, with older brother Mikael facing off against younger brother Markus for this first time in the NHL. Older brother had a great Olympics and is playing some of his best hockey as an NHL right now. He's centering a very dangerous top-line with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville.
The Wild have a very solid top-six, and Dany Heatley. I kid, even Heatley's play has improved drastically since the start of the season when he was relegated to the fourth line. The Wild are also getting Mikko Koivu back tonight after missing 17 games with a broken ankle and he always saves some of his best work for the Flames.
The Wild defence seems to spread around their talent, with studs Suter and Brodin paired with Spurgeon and Prosser, whom are 'meh' NHL defenders. The defensive corps just leaves one thinking, "not bad" though they would surely like to improve their bottom pairing, perhaps at the deadline?
Darcy Kuemper is playing in net. According to wikipedia, HockeyDB, and Dailyfaceoff, Kuemper is, in fact, an NHL goalie.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?
For Flames fans, this game is interesting for line combos, development of youngsters, sibling rivalry, etc. The Wild are in the midst of a fight for a playoff spot. Entering tonight's action, the Wild sit seven points up on Dallas, Phoenix, and John Tortorella for first in the wildcard standings. The Wild are looking to remain above that dog's breakfast and take care of their own business for the remaining 21 games of the season. The wildcard is basically their only shot at the playoffs as the Wild also sit 10 points out of third (Colorado w/ 83 pts).
Basically, tonight is a win-win for Flames fans. If the Flames can continue their improved play over the past 10 games (7-3-0) and sneak out a win, praise be to Vernon. If not, the Flames circuitously screw the Canucks further out of playoff spot, so really we're going home happy either way.
Puck drops at 6pm MT on SNET West