So…with all this talk of Jarome Iginla and the Los Angeles Kings and Brayden Schenn and a total tear down…it may be easy to forget there’s a hockey game to play. Hey, some may like to pretend there isn’t a game, with some of the results as of late…but tonight, it’s the Flames back at home as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes (7:30 pm, Sportsnet West and The FAN 960).
Let’s face it…it’s as close to a must-win game in November you can get. The Flames have lost six of seven games, and they’ve lost in a variety of different ways. In fact, they lost a frustrating-as-hell game against this same Coyotes team on Friday night in the desert. Who knows what happens tonight. Who knows.
For the most part, things look the same as they did Saturday against San Jose, with another swap of Mikkelson for Staios being the only tweak. As for lines, they look the same as they did to finish the game against the Sharks, with Matt Stajan reunited (yay) with Iginla and Alex Tanguay.
Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Niklas Hagman-Mikael Backlund-David Moss
Brendan Morrison-Craig Conroy-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Ian White
Cory Sarich-Mark Giordano
Jay Bouwmeester-Steve Staios
Kipper makes his seventh consecutive start, with results being very mixed. In fact, probably not mixed…the Flames have lost five of those six games he’s been in. He’s had some good spans, especially the first period of the game against San Jose, but also had some not so great spans.
The Coyotes enter action tonight sitting 7-5-5, currently riding a season high three game win streak. One of those wins game in the form of a 5-4 victory over Calgary on Friday night, a game where the ‘Yotes probably should have won 5-2. Lines and pairings are very similar to a few days ago:
Wojtek Wolski-Eric Belanger-Lee Stempniak
Ray Whitney-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata
Scottie Upshall-Vernon Fiddler-Lauri Korpikoski
Taylor Pyatt-Kyle Turris-Petr Prucha/Paul Bissonnette
Keith Yandle-Derek Morris
Ed Jovanovski-Adrian Aucoin
Sami Lepisto-Nolan Yonkman
Maybe the Flames can find a way to exploit that vaunted third pairing. Maybe. Remember ol Fiddler and his three goal night against Calgary…THAT was followed by a three goal night from Ray Whitney in their next win. It looks like the team might be heading in the right direction.
The Flames need a win, let’s face it…if this team falls any further below the .500 mark, they’re going to make a change. Is it going to be a major, Iginla-like move? Who knows. But this team won 17 games in the first two months of last season and STILL MISSED THE PLAYOFFS. They’re well behind that pace, and there are two ways to look at it. The positive way would be to say they’re getting their long losing skid out of the way early. The negative way would be to say the Flames are losing now and aren’t good enought to play .600 hockey for the rest of the season. Who knows…but at least start with a win tonight.