FGD: Wild Changes

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Craig Conroy #24 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 21, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames will welcome both Craig Conroy and Curtis Glencross back to the lineup tonight as they get set for their fifth meeting with the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul (6 pm, Sportsnet West and The FAN 960).  The return of the two Calgary forwards means two have to sit out: Ales Kotalik and Mikael Backlund.

How’s this for some math: after tonight, Calgary will have completed 41.5% of their schedule.  They’ll also have completed 83.3% of their schedule against the Minnesota Wild.  Yeah, we’ve seen a lot of the thrilling bunch from Minny as of late, and by thrilling, I mean the exact opposite.  The way the Wild play hockey combined with how the Flames play hockey can make for some of the dryest hockey possible…and it started off with such an exciting tilt on Saturday, a game Minnesota won 3-1.

The Lineup

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 29: Mikael Backlund  of the Calgary Flames concentrates on the puck against the Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 29, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames beat the Wild 3-0. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images)

After seeing a combined 33 seconds of ice time in the third period on Saturday, Backlund and Kotalik take a firm seat in the cozy Xcel press box.  No arguments on Kotalik; he’s been straight awful since returning to the lineup and has done nothing to lead anyone to believe he’s going to all of a sudden turn things around.  As for Backlund, I don’t like it…no, he was not very good on Saturday, but what good does it do to sit him at this point?  He’s one of a select group (one) on this roster right now who is young and showing promise for the future.  His improvement from game one to game 33 this year has been noticeable and impressive; sitting him again serves no purpose in my eyes.  He’s going to have off games, he’s still a rookie!

That being said, no arguments in seeing Conroy return to the lineup, and we knew Glencross was going to be back.  Conroy will centre the fourth line and will give the team another reliable faceoff man.  My belief is Conroy still brings you more than just faceoffs, however.  He’s a reliable player inside his own blueline, and never skirts his responsibilities at both ends of the ice.  Here are lines and pairings for tonight:

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

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

Miikka Kiprusoff

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 27: Chris Conner  of the Pittsburgh Penguins handles the puck while being held by Anton Babchuk  of the Calgary Flames at Consol Energy Center on November 27, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Pardy and Babchuk were victimized twice by Todd Richards and the Wild on Saturday night, and that was using on the fly tactics and icings without the benefit of the last change.  At home, expect Mikko Koivu to see a lot of those guys when the opportunity presents itself.  That pair is an absolute liability right now.

The Opponent

It’s a Wild team that will ice a bit of a different look in this game, as Nick Schultz will sit thanks to what’s believed to be a concussion.  Minny is not happy with an un-called elbow on Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos on Saturday, which is what has put Schultz on the shelf.  Apparently, the Wild thought it was dirty, and to be honest…I didn’t see it myself.  Kostopoulos seems to be a marked man though…an elbow to to Marek Zidlicky and a slash to Cal Clutterbuck also seem to be sticking in the Wild craw from Saturday.

OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 21:  55th overall pick, Marco Scandella of the Minnesota Wild is interviewed during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place on June 21, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Marco Scandella has been recalled from Houston of the American Hockey League and he will play tonight; in fact, three rookies will skate on the Minnesota blueline, as Richards has decided to sit Cam Barker on this night as a healthy scratch.  He was out for personal reasons on Saturday.  The Wild will go with an undetermined formation of the following six guys on the blueline: Scandella, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon, Brent Burns, Marek Zidlicky, and Greg Zanon.  Here are lines:

Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Chuck Kobasew
Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Kyle Brodziak-Martin Havlat
Patrick O’Sullivan-Matt Cullen-Antti Miettenen
Eric Nystrom-John Madden-Cal Clutterbuck

Niklas Backstrom gets the start in net once again for the Wild after making a few big stops on Saturday, but going largely untested for the most part.

The Story

Calgary clearly isn’t happy with their effort from Saturday night, hence the changes made to their forward ranks.  And it’s a damn good thing…Calgary was no good against the Wild, only slightly improving on a dismal first period in the final 40 minutes.  The Flames had decent possession numbers, but did a sub par job of turning possession into real chances.  Waiting until the third period isn’t going to cut it.