FGD: Home for a Test

The Calgary Flames welcome the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, and it starts off three straight at home for the team (7 pm, Sportsnet West and The FAN 960).  It’s a real test for the Flames, as this three game stint at the ‘Dome features teams Calgary "should beat"; however, that doesn’t really matter if they don’t beat them.  So it starts tonight against Columbus.

It’s gameday at the Scotiabank Saddledome, and we all know that the Flames need a win.  And we all know the Flames need to string wins together.  And blah blah blah.  What’s interesting in this game is what happened on Friday night in Anaheim; the Flames played the Ducks strong, and seemed to show some emotion in coming back to tie the game.  So can they carry it over? Will we look back and say "that game was a turning point"? Or am I grasping at straws trying to spin some positives in?

The Lineup

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 25: Matt Stajan #18 of the Calgary Flames battles for the puck with Bruno Gervais #8 of the New York Islanders in the second period of an NHL game at the Nassau Coliseum March 25, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders won 3-2. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The Flames made a surprising roster move prior to Friday’s game when Matt Stajan was sat out as a healthy scratch, and it looks like that might be the case once again tonight.  Stajan talked this morning and said he’ll take pregame skate and then find out, while Head Coach Brent Sutter said he’ll make any lineup decisions after tonight’s warmup.

The team didn’t roll lines this morning, so no word on what things will look like, and obviously who sits and who plays will determine things.  Check back on Twitter leading up to the game to see what lines they’ll be rolling with; here were the combos and pairings from Friday:

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

Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk

Olli Jokinen has goals in two straight games, and he played one of his better games with the Flames on Friday night.  He was shooting the puck, which is when he’s most effective, and he had the most jump we’ve seen from him.  And I felt Iginla took the team on his back in the third period in that game, which was the first time we’ve really seen that this season.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net tonight.

The Opponent

Columbus enters tonight right in the fray of that clogged up Western Conference playoff race, sitting at 16-11-1 and 33 points; they’re tied for tenth overall.  It’s not the highest scoring team of all time, but they play things pretty close to the vest, or at least try to.  Kent has a great breakdown on the opponent up on the site right now.

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 01: Rick Nash  of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Nashville Predators at the Nationwide Arena on December 1, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Rick Nash leads them in scoring, however the team boasts a few non-traditional names sprinkled through the lineup.  This team doesn’t score a whole lot, so methinks we might see a low scoring affair tonight.

As for lineup changes, Derek MacKenzie will not play however Jared Boll (back spasms) may return to the lineup; Kristian Huselius (ankle) has only played seven games this season, but it looks like he’s close to a return, and could get in later this week when the Jackets play Vancouver.  Here are projected lines and pairings tonight:

Rich Nash-Derick Brassard-Jakub Voracek
Tom Sestito-Antoine Vermette-R.J. Umberger
Ethan Moreau-Sammy Pahlsson-Derek Dorsett
Jared Boll-Chris Clark-Andrew Murray

Rostislav Klesla-Marc Methot
Jan Hejda-Fedor Tyutin
Kris Russell-Mike Commodore

Steve Mason looks to get the start in net.

The Story

Plain and simple, this is an important stretch for the Flames, especially this three game home stand.  If they can play some good hockey, they should be able to come away with some positive points; they play Columbus tonight, Toronto on Thursday and Minnesota on Friday.  The road trip they take off for following that sees them make stops in Minnesota, Columbus and Dallas.  So, just play good hockey and see what happens…that really has to be the focus.