Let’s not read too much into that last result.
It’s more like that 7-2 win a while back over The Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks was regression to the mean after the superstar-laden megapower of the Western Conference laid beating after horrifying beating on a rather pitiful Flames team. When you lose the previous season’s four games by a combined score of 20-8, especially after scoring the first FIVE goals of the series, you’re due for a bounceback.
And that 2-7 loss for the Blackhawks was only about three weeks ago, so it’s not like it will have been easily forgotten. And that desire for revenge will likely only be exacerbated by the Sons of Hiawatha getting their lunch handed to them by Vancouver last night.
What it all means is that this could get really ugly tonight, especially with the increasingly-healthy and therefore probably worse lineup the Flames have. Ales Kotalik returns tonight. As a consequence, Mikael Backlund, who was most famously praised for his play alongside Olli Jokinen of all people in Pumpkinhead’s return from suspension, gets a seat in the pressbox. Which is probably fine, as his minutes have declined to less than 8:00 in the last two games, and who has zero shots on goal in that time.
But the real question is whether Kotalik will have a significant impact at all. The way Backlund’s been playing, and the way Brent Sutter has been treating his shifts, his play was minimally important, which is all well and good when the team is winning. But Kotalik, as with so many other Flames, will likely get a larger role tonight than Backlund ever had with this team, regardless of whether or not he’s done anything to deserve it other than cash a considerably larger paycheck.
However, there may yet be some good news: Marty Turco is getting the start for the Blackhawks, and he has been bad. So bad, in fact, that the NHL.com preview of the game even asks the question, "is age catching up with Marty Turco?" Now, it’s not exactly an enviable position when you’re the team who other teams start that kind of goaltender against, but victories have to come somehow, and if it’s pity wins because the favored team thinks they’re not playing a legitimate opponent (and with Calgary once again tied for last, the favored teams make a helluva point), then so be it.
‘Course, that hasn’t really helped so far either.