January 11 2017 12:00PM
On Monday, the Calgary Flames had a big game against a conference rival in the Winnipeg Jets. It didn't go well, with the Flames struggling against the size and structure of the Jets game...and seemingly forgetting how to connect on passes for roughly half the game. Well, things don't get much easier for them tonight as they host the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks.
Playing their second game in as many nights after a fairly entertaining tilt against the Edmonton Oilers last night, the Sharks are likely going to be a bit fatigued. In other words? This is the type of game that teams that make the playoffs find a way to win. If the Flames plan on being a playoff team, they're going to have to figure out how to beat the Sharks (and the Ducks, Kings, Blackhawks and Predators) in these types of situations.
The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan! (The game is joined-in-progress on Sportsnet West.)
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Despite taking the loss last time out against Winnipeg, Chad Johnson gets the start tonight in a big divisional game for the Flames. Johnson's been the better of the two goalies this season and started both games in San Jose earlier this season, so he's arguably the best netminder to face the Sharks tonight. He's 14-9-1 with a 2.27 goals against average and .922 save percentage this year.
As usual, the Flames are without Ladislav Smid and Troy Brouwer (though Brouwer skated in a non-contact jersey this morning). Based on morning skate, it sounds like Brett Kulak and Freddie Hamilton remain the extra healthy bodies. The thought process is probably to give the same group another kick at the can after their so-so effort against Winnipeg before making any substantial tinkers.
The Flames have had a tough time generating offense at even strength lately, though Johnny Gaudreau has been looking more and more dangerous – he may be poised for a breakout game. They struggled with the Jets size and structure so expect them to rely on dump and chase hockey, and utilizing their speed to get behind the defense and generate offensive chances. Either that or get the defense running around and taking penalties so that their vaunted power play can get them on the scoreboard. Let's just hope they're not as out-matched as they were against Winnipeg.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
The Sharks did the Flames a favour last night, beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-3. Martin Jones started in goal and faced 36 shots in the victory. Historically, Jones and backup Aaron Dell have split back-to-back nights so my expectation is Dell starts here. And that's a good thing, since Jones is really good and Dell is not nearly so.
Mikkel Boedker had a hat trick last night, while both Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Michael Haley also had multi-point nights. Geez, if the Sharks fourth line is making that kind of noise imagine how their scorers could do! The Sharks remain without Tomas Hertl and beloved ex-Flame David Schlemko due to injury. Given the back-to-back, it's unclear if they'll make any changes for tonight. Their extras are Tim Heed, Mirco Mueller and Tommy Wingels.
In 114 prior regular season meetings, the Flames are 59-42-13 against the Sharks. Granted, the Sharks were bad for many years and have been a lot better in recent seasons. This is the third of five meetings between the two teams. They've played twice in San Jose already, splitting the two games. The remaining two games after this one are March 31 in Calgary and April 8 in San Jose.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Some Sharks follows for tonight's contest:
My cousin, the Sharks fan, is confident that San Jose is going to win.
SUM IT UP
Are the Flames going to be a playoff team? Are they going to be a competitive team from here on out? Tonight's a great chance to get some answers, as they face the Pacific Division leaders in a crucial game with playoff implications.