FGD: Look Who’s Here

WASHINGTON - MARCH 28: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals handles the puck against Jarome Iginla #12 of the Calgary Flames at the Verizon Center on March 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

So, apparently the Washington Capitals are a pretty popular team.  They bring quite the entourage with them, and I guess for good reason, but the President’s Trophy winning team from a year ago is not happy with the start they’ve got off to.  At 6-4, the Caps seem frustrated and ornery…as do their opponent tonight, the 6-4 Calgary Flames (8 pm, CBC and The FAN 960).

It really is F’in Game Day at the Scotiabank Saddledome, and I’m looking forward to this one.  The Flames are coming off a rough loss on Thursday night at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, while the Caps are coming off a Thursday loss at the hands of the Minnesota Wild.

The Lineup

It was an optional skate for the Flames this morning, but most of the guys were out there, with only a few players opting not to take the skate.  Was interesting to see Head Coach Brent Sutter not on the ice, instead taking the practice in from a suite with Jay Feaster.

After hearing from the Head Coach, it doesn’t sound like we’ll see any lineup changes this evening, so we should see the same look we got against the Avalanche Thursday night.  The only thing that may change would be pairings, which we’ll update in the pregame skate.  From Thursday though, here were lines and pairings:

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

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

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net after Henrik Karlsson suffered his first NHL loss on Thursday night.  I’d anticipate seeing Kiprusoff get the call for the next four games and then take a rest on either the 12th or 13th of November when the Flames visit Phoenix and San Jose.

The Opponent

As Brent Sutter opted not to take skate with his troops, Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau did the same with his guys…Boudreau opted to let his assistants run practice this morning.  Robert has his gameday preview up on the Caps, which is a good read to get you set for gametime.

It looks like Michael Neuvirth gets the start in net, sporting fairly good numbers.  He sits 6-3-0 with a 2.17 goals against and a .926 save percentage.  The Caps are lead by #8, as Alexander Ovechkin enters with ten points in as many games, while Alex Semin follows with eight points.

Tom Poti and Marcus Johansson will both miss the game with injuries, and are still listed day-to-day on the injury report.  Defenceman Tyler Sloan is a gametime decision, as he’s also listed day-to-day heading in.  Here are projected lines and pairings for the Caps:

Alexander Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Mike Knuble
Brooks Laich-Tomas Fleischmann-Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera-Mathieu Perreault-Eric Fehr
Matt Henrdicks-David Steckel-Matt Bradley

Mike Green-Jeff Schultz
Karl Alzner-John Carlson
John Erskine-Tyler Sloan

The Story

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Brent Sutter head coach of the Calgary Flames during the NHL game against  Anaheim Ducks  at the Honda Center on November 23, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Both teams are actually in similar spots.  The Flames enter this game coming off a disappointing loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, a game where they lead three seperate times before eventually falling 6-5.  The Caps, who were offensive dynamos last season, are having trouble finding the net.  That was on display Thursday in a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Wild.

On the Calgary side, much has been made about a potential feud between Coach Sutter and Jarome Iginla.  And while both sides have doused water on the story, it doesn’t mean people are going to stop talking about it.  Combine TSN running a story last night with George Johnson’s very well written piece on the subject, and you’ve got something people will be talking about.

Numbers wise, special teams look to be very interesting tonight.  Calgary’s penalty kill continues to buzz, clicking at 87.8% which is good for seventh overall.  Lately, it’s been pretty good too, allowing just two goals over four games.  Washington’s powerplay?  Not so good.  They’ve scored just four goals on the man advantage this season and sit 25th in the NHL at 10.5%.

The other side of that battle is intriguing as well.  The Caps sport a top five PK, clicking at 88.9% overall.  As for Calgary, their powerplay numbers continue to improve, now sitting 21st in the NHL at 13.3%.  However, it’s lately where things get a little more impressive…they’ve scored four powerplay goals over their last three games, clicking at 28.6%.

Of Note

Washington hasn’t won in Calgary in exactly four years, dating back to October 30th of 2006.  Over 22 years, the Caps have won just three times at the ‘Dome.  Last year, the Flames took a 5-3 win at the Verizon Center in DC, after jumping out to a shocking 4-0 first period lead.  The Caps certainly pushed that afternoon, outshooting the Flames 20-2 in the final frame.

Brendan Morrison is the only former Capital on the Flames roster, spending last season there putting up 42 points in 74 games.  On the other side, both Jeff Schultz and Karl Alzner have Calgary connections, being former members of the WHL’s Hitmen.