FGD: Welcome Home

The Calgary Flames open up a five game home stand tonight against a pretty darn tough opponent, welcoming the San Jose Sharks to the Scotiabank Saddledome (6pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960).  Calgary is coming off their best offensive display of the young season, a 6-2 win Friday on the road in Columbus.

On a Sunday night, it’s F’in Game Day at the ‘Dome, and once again it’s a chance for the Flames to string consecutive wins together.  After a simulteanously impressive but odd win over Columbus, Calgary needs to carry over the things they gained in Ohio…specifically contributions from their top offensive players.

The Lineup

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 19: Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff  of the Calgary Flames warms up prior to a game against the Nashville Predators on October 19, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Miikka Kiprusoff returns to the Flames net after sitting his first game in Columbus, making way for Henrik Karlsson’s first win of the season.  You can’t blame Karlsson for thinking "is this it?" in his NHL debut, but Kiprusoff faces a stiffer test in his former team.

It looks to be a similar lineup tonight as compared to Friday, as there’s not a whole lot of motivation to change a lot after a six goal outing on the road.  The lines were exactly the same this morning, but as a refresher:

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

As for pairings, they were rotating back and forth this morning, but things are projected to be the same as they were Friday:

Robyn Regehr-Ian White
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Jay Bouwmeester-Brendan Mikkelson

Mikkelson was on the ice for one of the two Columbus goals on Friday, so ended up finishing -1, but all reports seemed to have him being just fine for the limited ice time he got.  Will be good to see him play in the flesh to start getting a better read on the young defender…remember, he is on a two way contract.

The Opponent

Robert’s gameday preview focusing on the Sharks is here, but it’s a team coming off a complete massacre of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.  Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton each finished with three points in the provincial capitol as San Jose gradually took over that hockey game after falling down 1-0 early on.

The Sharks didn’t skate this morning, after getting in late last night/early this morning, but we’re expecting Antii Niemi to get the start after Antero Niitymaki got the start in an easy affair yesterday.  Pavelski is red hot with five points in his last two games, as he and Thornton lead the team with seven points each this season while both Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau have six points.

Niemi’s numbers aren’t strong in his first month as a Shark, as he sits 1-2 with a sky high 3.71 goals against along with a .879 save percentage.  However, Niemi had some success against the Flames last season while he was with the Blackhawks.

The Story

If Calgary is to start making any moves up the Western Conference ranks, they’re going to have to start stringing wins together and get away from the win one, lose one pattern.  Calgary has back-to-back wins once this season, and need to do that again, especially with a great opportunity with a five game stand at the ‘Dome.

Calgary’s top players were their top players Friday, especially on the scoresheet.  Rene Bourque lead the way with four points and his third career hat-trick, while Jarome Iginla finished with three assists.  Matt Stajan and Olli Jokinen each had two points, while names like Robyn Regehr and Mark Giordano were the top players on the blueline.  On top of that, I felt it was Jay Bouwmeester’s best game of the season.

Granted, it’s easy to write that performance off due to a dismal performance from the Jackets, and it gets even odder…Columbus followed up an embarassing 6-2 loss with a 3-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions in Chicago.  Odd season to this point.

Of Note

Five of the last six games between these teams have been decided by one goal, with the only exception being that lovely 9-1 loss in San Jose last season.  Everyone remembers that game…I had to stay up till 4 in the morning because of it.  Stupid Sharks.

San Jose enters with a scorching powerplay, including the top powerplay away from home.  Overall, they’re clicking at 33.3%, good for second in the league, and a very impressive 43.8% on the road, which is tops in the NHL.  Calgary’s powerplay, well…Calgary’s penalty kill has been pretty good.