The Calgary Flames look to bounce back after a tough 2-1 loss in Los Angeles last night; tonight, it’s their first meeting with the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center (8 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960). For Calgary, they’re back to three games below the .500 mark, and once again, they’re playing a team they need to chase down at some point.
The Ducks are one of six teams tied with 32 points on the year, right in the middle of one of the tightest log jams we’ve ever seen in the Western Conference standings. Calgary’s task is to somehow wedge themselves into the pack, because as it stands right now, they’re six points back of it. With a three game home stand looming next week, taking a win kiddy corner to Disneyland might not make dreams come true but it’s certainly better than back-to-back losses.
Henrik Karlsson is expected to get the start in net for the Flames looking for his third straight strong outing between the pipes. He took a win over the Minnesota Wild earlier this month, and his outing against the New Jersey Devils late in November was fairly solid as well. The biggest thing Karlsson has done of late is give the coaching staff the confidence to use him like a regular backup, instead of worrying about what team you’re going to put him against. If you believe Kiprusoff needs a rest, you give him a rest and put Karlsson in.
There may be other lineup changes as well, but no word yet. Calgary made far too many unforced mistakes last night and didn’t play a very smart hockey game overall, which you know won’t sit well with the Head Coach. David Moss still had fluish symptoms yesterday, which is why he sat his second consecutive game; but he will get back into the lineup tonight. No word on who comes out for Moss to get back in, but here are lines and pairings from yesterday:
Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Olli Jokinen-Ales Kotalik
Curtis Glencross-Mikael Backlund-Rene Bourque
Tom Kostopoulos-Brendan Morrison-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk
A couple notes: Babchuk has been far less of a detriment the last three games, and has given you a little bit on the powerplay as well. As Kent noted on Overtime yesterday, that’s all you can ask for from that guy. As for Cory Sarich, he just wasn’t good against the Kings, but it’s almost unfair to criticize the guy. He’s being put in a spot that isn’t conducive to success; he’s not a top four blueliner, so when he’s playing top four minutes, he’s going to struggle.
Up front, I really liked Mikael Backlund last night; thought he was the best player on that line. I’m not quite sure why he was sat; he may not be the teams top forward, but he certainly hasn’t hurt the team at all the last two months. Most impressive about him has been his progression; it’s leaps and bounds from where he was at the beginning of the season.
The Ducks are one of the teams the Flames could actually track down in fairly short order, due to the high amount of games Anaheim has played. Through 31 (which is highest in the West), the Ducks sit 14-13-4, so it’s not as if we’re talking about a powerhouse of a team. Still, with their top end talent, they can kill you…I’m sure Head Coach Randy Carlyle will have no problem dispatching his top unit against Olli Jokinen’s line, much like Terry Murray did with the Kopitar line last night.
As for lineup notes, Joffrey Lupul has recently come back after a long stretch out of the lineup, so it’s always good to see a player return after a hard road back. It looks like Teemu Selanne will miss the game with a groin issue, which takes a big chunk out of Anaheim’s offence; his production has been pretty darn good. Here are projected lines and pairings tonight:
Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Jason Blake-Saku Koivu-Joffrey Lupul
Brandon McMillan-Nick Bonino-Todd Marchant
Aaron Voros-Kyle Chipchura-George Parros
Toni Lydman-Lubomir Visnovsky
Cam Fowler-Paul Mara
Luca Sbisa-Andy Sutton
It’ll be Jonas Hiller in net for the Ducks, so unfortunately, we won’t see McBackup against his former team. Give McElhinney credit; he’s certainly turned himself into a full time backup goalie. Also, watching Cam Fowler play is a lot of fun; the Ducks stole him as late as they did at the draft.
The story gets old…I don’t know how many times I can write about back-to-back wins, getting on a roll, limiting mistakes, and playing a 60 minute game. Fact is, all of those things are accurate…but we all konw that. So we just watch and see what the Flames will be on this night, and then we do the same when they take on Columbus on Monday.
The Flames have powerplay goals in three straight games, dating back to their win over the Chicago Blackhawks. That’s a positive because of how bad the man advantage has been at times. The last two games, the powerplay converted at key times as well…Jarome Iginla’s marker against Tampa gave Calgary some breathing room, while Olli Jokinen’s last night got the team back in the game.