FGD: Bring in the Reinforcements

WASHINGTON - MARCH 28: Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals is knocked to the ice by Matt Stajan #18 of the Calgary Flames on March 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

As depressing as it’s been seeing the constant stream of Flames players to the infirmary, the team gets some good news tonight in game three of the regular season.  That comes in the form of Matt Stajan, who will in fact make his season debut for Calgary tonight against the Florida Panthers (7:30 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The Fan 960).  Steve Staios also makes his season debut for the Flames.

The Lineup

Matt Stajan is the most notable returnee for the Flames tonight, after he was injured in Calgary’s first night of the preseason in Vancouver.  The initial bad news about his seperated shoulder was tempered shortly after when we found out he wouldn’t need surgery and had begun skating fairly shortly afterwards.  Stajan returned to full contact practice on Tuesday.

As for Steve Staios, he takes the place of Adam Pardy on the Flames blueline.  Pardy left Calgary’s win over LA on Sunday with a shoulder injury; he’s out indefinetely.  It was either Staios or Sarich drawing back in, and the coaching staff went with Staios, who perhaps bring a little more mobility.  He’ll play alongside T.J. Brodie.  Here are the lines and pairngs:

Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Matt Stajan-Brendan Morrison
Curtis Glencross-Mikael Backlund-Tim Jackman
Craig Conroy-Stefan Meyer-Brett Sutter

Ian White-Robyn Regehr
Mark Giordano-Jay Bouwmeester
T.J. Brodie-Steve Staios

Some worry whether or not Stajan has been rushed back too early, but I would highly doubt it.  Say what you want about the Flames, but they have one of the best strength and conditioning departments out there.  We’ll see how eager Stajan is to engage physically off the bat, or if there is any apprehension.

The Opponent

The Florida Panthers enter 0-2 with losses in Edmonton and Vancouver behind them.  Check out Kent’s article focusing in on a Panthers team short on big names.  They’re a well coached group, with many in the coaching frat high on Peter DeBoer and the work he’s done to this point.  However, entering his third season, DeBoer has yet to play past mid-April.

The Florida-Calgary connections are rather vast, with former Panthers Olli Jokinen, Jay Bouwmeester, Niklas Hagman and Stefan Meyer all wearing Flames colours now.  On the other side, we all remember Cory Stillman and his time in Calgary, and more recently, Chris Higgins was with the Flames and now makes his home in South Florida.

Lines and pairings for the Cats:

Michael Frolik-Stephen Weiss-Chris Higgins
David Booth-Shawn Mathias-Rostislav Olesz
Cory Stillman-Marty Reasoner-Radek Dvorak
Kenndal McCardle-Mike Santorelli-Steve Bernier

Bryan McCabe-Dmitry Kulikov
Dennis Wideman-Bryan Allen
Mike Weaver-Jason Garrison

The Story

Calgary tries to string wins together for the first time this season, and they have an opportunity to really make some hay early on with an early four game homestand.  With Calgary’s stated goal to make October a strong month, this stretch is important with a game against the Oilers looming on Saturday night.

DALLAS - JANUARY 27: Center Olli Jokinen #21 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his goal with Jarome Iginla #12 against the Dallas Stars in the second period at American Airlines Center on January 27, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I’ll be very interested to see the top line in action tonight after doing some very good work against LA’s top even strength players on Sunday.  Florida doesn’t boast the same type of opposition, so it’s an opportunity for the top line to gain some momentum in terms of points.

Of Note

Three of the last four meetings between these teams have gone to extra time, with two going to a shootout.  Calgary’s last win over Florida was last season on the road, and their last win over the Panthers at the ‘Dome was back in January of 2007.