After a 7-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night, the Calgary Flames look to get on some sort of a streak as they start off an extremely tough looking five game road trip this afternoon in Detroit (3 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960). Calgary still sits two games below the .500 mark as they prepare for their third game against the Red Wings this season.
It’s F’in Game Day, afternoon edition, as the Flames look for their first win against Detroit this season. Calgary has played some all right hockey over the last four games, winning one and losing three, while falling to 14th in the Western Conference. Friday’s win over Chicago was big, but it becomes a whole lot less important if they nullify it with another loss here.
It’ll be the second of a three game suspension for Flames forward Olli Jokinen, who sat out Friday against the Hawks. The lines were juggled for that game, responding to the absence of Jokinen and the addition of Tom Kostopoulos, who played his first game Friday night as well.
Defensive pairings were switched up a little bit, as newcomer Anton Babchuk played his first game on the blueline. He wasn’t great, and was victimized two seperate times in the first period. He seemed to settle in as the game went along, and I think a strong game from Mark Giordano helped his cause. Here are probable lines and pairings for this afternoon:
Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Mikael Backlund-Rene Bourque
Curtis Glencross-David Moss-Tom Kostopoulos
Brendan Morrison-Craig Conroy-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Anton Babchuk
Cory Sarich-Brendan Mikkelson
Kiprusoff has let in a few softies over the last little while, and the Flames probably can’t afford that against one of the NHL’s true elite teams in Detroit. If Mikkelson plays, I think it’s the right move…Friday was the first game watching him where I thought he looked comfortable and I thought it was his best game in a Flames uniform.
The Red Wings are the top team in the Western Conference, sitting 12-3-2 on the season and riding a five game point streak. They had their four game win streak snapped Friday night when they fell 4-3 in overtime to Minnesota. It’s a team that gets scoring from everywhere, lead by one of the best even strength lines in the NHL. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are the top two scorers on the team, but they’re getting sizeable offensive contributions from guys like Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula.
The return of Brian Rafalski to the blueline has been a huge boost, and they have a very strong top three on the blueline. Here are the lines and pairings the Wings have been rolling with over the last few games:
Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom
Johan Franzen-Valtteri Filppula-Jiri Hudler
Todd Bertuzzi-Mike Modano-Dan Cleary
Patrick Eaves-Darren Helm-Justin Abdelkader
Nicklas Lidstrom-Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson-Brian Rafalski
Ruslan Salei-Niklas Kronwall
Those forward lines are deep and the Wings make it extremely difficult to exploit favorable matchups, especially on the road. And to be honest, that blueline doesn’t really have any weak spots to exploit…Ericsson can sometimes be a rodeo in his own end, but Rafalski is very good at positioning, so reports suggest they’ve been a pretty good pair.
Calgary has lost both their previous games this season to the Wings, one in Detroit by a 4-2 score before falling 2-1 at home. The first game saw Detroit’s top players carry the day, with names like Franzen, Bertuzzi and Lidstrom potting goals and Datsyuk being the best player on the ice, bar none (not surprising). The second game was a little different…while the top end guys were largely neutralized, it was Detroit’s depth that did the job, with goals coming from Modano and Abdelkader. It really is tough to match up against them.
The Flames need to get on roll, because they have to dig themselves out of this whole now before things slip too far away. At 8-10, the season is far from lost, but a largely unsuccessful road trip will set them back much further. At the very least, they have a good feeling heading into this game, thanks to a seven goal outburst against Chicago…how that translates to this game, if at all, is anybodys guess.