The Minnesota Wild make their first appearance in Calgary tonight as the Flames return home from a lackluster five game road trip through the Eastern Conference where they went 1-2-2 (7 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960). Overall, the Flames find themselves three games below .500 once again, and they’re four back of the Wild who sit third in the Northwest Divison.
Following a 4-1 loss Saturday in Pittsburgh, The Flames play two straight games at home starting with this one…it’s their second game against the Wild this season, falling 2-1 in Minnesota on November 5th. After a taxing road trip, things don’t get much easier for the Flames schedule wise…they play seven games in 12 days up to December 10th when they finally get a two day break.
Miikka Kiprusoff is back in net for the Flames after an impressive performance in a losing effort Saturday afternoon…Kiprusoff was out of his mind in the first period to keep Calgary in it as the Penguins blitzed them and he made some key saves in the final 40 minutes of the game as well.
A couple lineup notes from this morning’s practice…Adam Pardy returned to the ice skating with the main practice group, so his return to the lineup seems to be close. He won’t play tonight as he’ll watch the game from the press box along with Steve Staios; Cory Sarich returns after being a healthy scratch for the last part of that road trip.
Up front, Raitis Ivanans seems to have suffered a setback in his recovery from a suspected concussion…he had been skating with the team for the last little while. All speculation suggests Ales Kotalik will return to the lineup sometime this week, either Wednesday or Friday.
Stefan Meyer and Craig Conroy will not play tonight while Olli Jokinen moves to a new spot on the wing. Meyer was placed on waivers by the team today, likely to assign him to Abbotsford at some point tomorrow. Here are lines and pairings:
Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-David Moss-Rene Bourque
Niklas Hagman-Mikael Backlund-Olli Jokinen
Tom Kostopoulos-Brendan Morrison-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk-Brendan Mikkelson
Minnesota sits third in the Northwest Division with 24 points, with a 11-9-2 record to this point. They’ve kinda been as advertised, sitting around the .500 mark which is where a lot of people had them pegged heading into the season. They weren’t overly active during the off season, adding names like Nystrom and Theodore over the summer.
They’re most recent addition has been an interesting one, adding Patrick O’Sullivan via the waiver wire and inserting him immediately on the top line. O’Sullivan was cast off by the Carolina Hurricanes and returns to the place where it all started…he was a second round pick in 2003, however never played a game.
The Wild are suffereing from injury issues, as Guillaume Latendresse remains on the sidelines with a groin injury; he had surgery last week and is out indefinetely. Other injuries include Clayton Stoner (upper body), Josh Harding (knee) and James Sheppard (knee). In addition, former Flames first rounder Chuck Kobasew has been granted a leave of absence to be with his family during a health crisis. Here are projected lines and pairings:
Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Patrick O’Sullivan
Matt Cullen-Kyle Brodziak-Martin Havlat
Cal Clutterbuck-John Madden-Antti Miettenen
Robbie Earl-Eric Nystrom-Brad Staubitz
Nick Schultz-Brent Burns
Greg Zanon-Marek Zidlicky
Cam Barker-Justin Falk
So Theodore gets the start in net…another backup faces the Flames.
Once again, it’s a huge game for the Flames, but it’s also a game where certain guys need to bounce back. It was a terrible game on Saturday for the line of Bourque, Moss and Glencross, which isn’t something we’re used to…Moss and Glencross have been among the most impactful players on the team. However, Bourque has really struggled and no one is quite sure what’s going on…Kent said it best on Overtime Saturday: Bourque is best when he’s using his speed and strength. Neither have been used as much as of late.
On the bright side, Jarome Iginla continues to be a force. Even with him finishing underwater on scoring chances Saturday, I thought he was Calgary’s best forward and made a lot of things happen. For the first time this season, the captain needs some help though.