FGD: I’m Not Afraid (Not Afraid)

The Calgary Flames bucked that Windy City monkey off their back last month with a 7-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, snapping an eight game losing streak against them.  Tonight, they take on the Hawks for the first time at the United Center with a familiar face back in the lineup (5 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960).  Ales Kotalik makes his return to the lineup, his first game of the season.

The Flames could really use a win on gameday, as they try to put back to back wins together for the first time since October.  That’s not good enough in today’s Western Conference, but if they can do it here, it’s a start.  It’ll be a snarly Hawks team, at least you’d think so…a shutout loss to the Canucks on Friday coupled with that 7-2 loss last time out against Calgary might add some motivation.

The Lineup

EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 1: James Vandermeer  of the Edmonton Oilers chases Ales Kotalik  of the Calgary Flames in first-period action at Rexall Place October 1, 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
 

The aforementioned Ales Kotalik makes his return to the Flames lineup for the first time since the preseason.  He had a fairly good exhibition season, and many have wondered how he would fit back in when ready…well, now we know: in place of Mikael Backlund.  Backlund didn’t play much in Friday’s win over Minnesota, and I guess he’d be the easy one to take out of the lineup for that reason…although, I don’t know if I agree.  Backlund has shown marked improvement from the start of the season till now, and has been one of the bright spots for Calgary this season.  But when the team has the overload of forwards the Flames do right now, someone is going to have to sit.  Lines aren’t set with Kotalik in the lineup, so this is the guess…we’ll see once the game comes…

Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Olli Jokinen-Ales Kotalik
Curtis Glencross-David Moss-Rene Bourque
Tom Kostopoulos-Brendan Morrison-Tim Jackman

The pairings are coming from Roger Millions of Rogers Sportsnet and are mixed up once again:

Jay Bouwmeester-Steve Staios
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Robyn Regehr-Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff

I guess when the Flames lack a fourth top four defenceman, it makes sense from afar to mix up the top three with the other guys.

The Opponent

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 30: Corey Crawford  of the Chicago Blackhawks lets a shot by Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues slip past for a 3rd period goal at the United Center on November 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 7-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
 

Corey Crawford gets the start in net for the Hawks as they try to bounce back from that shutout loss to Vancouver on Friday.  Turco was in net for that game, and his season has been very up and down, just as the Hawks have been.  The Blackhawks sit 14-12-2, but are below .500 at the former Madhouse on Madison…sitting 6-8-0.  It’s a place that is tough to play for the Flames, but maybe the earlier win makes that less of a factor.

Marian Hossa remains out of the lineup, but Head Coach Joel Quenneville says he’s making progress from his lower body injury…he’s one of Chicago’s best, if not their best even strength player and will not play in this game.  Fernando Pisani will also sit out.  Here are lines and pairings:

Viktor Stalberg-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Tomas Kopecky-Patrick Sharp-Jeremy Morin
Bryan Bickell-David Bolland-Troy Brouwer
John Scott-Jake Dowell-Jack Skille

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Jassen Cullimore-Nick Boynton

I know Calgary’s on the road, but that third pairing can really be exploited by the Flames, or any other team for that matter.

The Story

It remains the same for the Calgary Flames, as they’re coming off a win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night…they’re second win in three games against their divisional foes.  But, with their last back to back wins coming on October 24 and 26th, they need to string things together.  Wins in three of six and four of eight aren’t going to do it right now, so we’ll see what the Flames can do against the Hawks tonight.