FGD: A Dreary Forecast

Things are looking more and more bleak for the Calgary Flames as they prepare for their third meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena (5 pm, Sportsnet West and The FAN 960).  After two straight losses to the Minnesota Wild, the team has fallen eight points out of the playoffs; they’ll turn to their backup goaltender tonight against the Jackets.

Monday night was as frustrating a loss as there’s been all season for the Flames, as they weren’t able to finish a hockey game; a game they had controlled and dominated at times through 40 minutes.  Two powerplay goals against in the third, including a horribly timed Miikka Kiprusoff gaffe, were the difference, and dropped Calgary back to three games below .500.

The Lineup

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 10: Goaltender Henrik Karlsson  of the Calgary Flames makes a save as teammate Jerome Iginla  defends against the Anaheim Ducks in the first period at the Honda Center on December 10, 2010 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
 

Henrik Karlsson starts in net for the Flames, which was the plan all along.  Karlsson has been pretty good in his relief of Kiprusoff, and played a strong game in his last start, against the Anaheim Ducks ten days ago.  You can tell the confidence level continues to rise for Karlsson, and if you’re a fan, you don’t cringe as much when you hear the backup is going in.

The Flames did not skate this morning in Columbus, so a lot of the lineup decisions will be of the game time variety.  We do know Ales Kotalik slots back into the lineup, after sitting one game yesterday as a healthy scratch. 

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)
 

Mikael Backlund joined Kotalik in the press box, as Craig Conroy and Curtis Glencross returned to the lineup.  Again, I’m on record thinking it’s absolutely ridiculous to have Backlund sitting period, especially if he sits a second straight game.  Sure, he was not very good against the Wild on Saturday, but what message does this send? Hey kid, you’ve done a great job of getting your game to a real NHL level and you’ve impressed a lot of people, but if you have one bad game, you’re out…sorry rook.  I don’t think it does any real damage to his development per say…I’m more worried about the message.  And if you’re trying to tell me Tom Kostopoulos makes more of an impact than Backlund, then I guess I should just stop watching hockey.  This is all an if, because we don’t know at this point.

These were lines and pairings in Minnesota on Monday, however they will change, at least slightly, tonight:

Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Matt Stajan-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

All four forward units were fairly effective yesterday, as the Wild really had nothing in the opening 40 minutes.  Calgary really did work them, but suffered with finish issues which would come back to bite them in the behind.

The Opponent

It hasn’t been that long since we’ve seen the Jackets, in fact, just eight days ago when they visited Calgary.  That game went down as a 3-2 overtime win for the home side, with Jarome Iginla scoring the game winner.  Calgary held a 2-0 lead in that game, only to let it slip in the third period.

Overall, it’s a Jackets team that is beatable, as they don’t boast a ton of depth, much like Minnesota didn’t the past two games.  But they’re opportunistic and they do a solid job of sucking the life out of opposition teams by the way they play.  It’s not an offensive juggernaut, with just 20 goals scored over their last 12 games…and the results haven’t been there of late either.  The Jackets have just two wins in their last ten games. 

VANCOUVER, CANADA - DECEMBER 15: Goalie Mathieu Garon  of the Columbus Blue Jackets stops Daniel Sedin  of the Vancouver Canucks in close during the overtime period in NHL action on December 15, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
 

Steve Mason was dismal last Monday against the Flames, being pulled after allowing two goal in the first period.  The team is not longer babying him in their treatment, as their goaltending coach recently ripped him for his performance and his focus.  As such, Mathieu Garon will get the bulk of the work load going forward, and will start tonight against the Flames.  He played the majority of their last game against Calgary.

Mike Commodore sits down in this game to make way for Rostislav Klesla on the blueline.  Here are Columbus lines and pairings:

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Jakub Voracek
Kristian Huselius-Antoine Vermette-R.J. Umberger
Ethan Moreau-Sammy Pahlsson-Derek Dorsett
Tom Sestito-Kyle Wilson-Jared Boll

Jan Hejda-Marc Methot
Fedor Tyutin-Anton Stralman
Kris Russell-Rostislav Klesla

The Story

If Calgary’s playoff hopes were bleak heading into their home-and-home set with Minnesota, they are downright depressing at this point.  No, nothing is impossible, and the season still isn’t lost…but after such a promising start to a three game home stand, it really is disappointing, yet not surprising, they’ve taken large steps back in the last two games.  Columbus is a team they’ve beat twice already this season, and they have the ability to beat them a third time tonight…if they show up to start.  Columbus should be a motivated team, so a slow start just isn’t going to cut it for the visitors.

  • Kiprusoff (Goalie): CHECK

    Bouwmeester
    Regehr
    Giordano (Defense): CHECK

    Ignila
    Bourque
    Tanguay (Offense): CHECK

    With these players anchoring our team, how is it that we are 14th in the west??

    A lot of other teams don’t have the caliber of players we do and yet they are having much better seasons then us. Besides are couple of questionable signings (Stajan, Kotalik), Daryl Sutter has done a good job, especially with the sudden increase in Jokinen output (and seriously I woulda traded Phaneuf for a bag of pucks).

    IMO the problem lies with the coach and/or the system. What are your thought people?

  • Kent, I have been wondering about this for a while…and am wondering your take. Is Kipper a world class goalie? If so (which everyone in this city seems to believe)why are his stats so “average” is it team defence or is it just that Kipper is closer to his “best before date” than we thought?

  • I do not understand how the flames ownership continues to ignore this mess. Hal a pena is correct in saying you will probably see the same team next year due to stupid contracts sutter has signed. As for you oiler fans, I wouldn’t get to excited as long as kevin lowe has anything to do with your team

  • wattree

    The worst part about Backlund is that Morrison was far an away the weakest link on that line Saturday. At least 1 goal and several good chances for the Wild came off of bad passes and soft plays by Morrison. And his reward, PP time.

    I’m all for seeing Karlson a lot and moving Kipper for prospects if he can handle the work load.

  • wattree

    Nation,

    The Flames need to rebuild. We need to get younger and faster. The Oilers have made a commitment to a rebuild and we need to do the same. We need to get younger, faster and more physical. Trade for Lucic and JF Jacques. Both are great players at their respective cap hits. Keep Kiprusoff since he knows how to collect W’s and has a low GAA. Get a stud dman like Big Buff to put up points up from the backend.

    Also, why do you like Husielis Kent he was soft and didn’t buy into the system. You should write about how we should have never let go of Bertuzzi, who would add some needed scoring punch right now.

  • T&A4Flames

    If the season is truely lost, I would like to see more of Karlsson. If he shows he can handle a heavier load, perhaps moving Kipper (I still hate to do it) for some much needed youth, prospects and picks is possible.

  • T&A4Flames

    the flames need to play 650 plus hockey to hit the 94 points mark. factor in the teams they are chasing and i would guess this feat is akin to winning the powerball lottery. december 21 and the playoffs are bleak.all the dear santa letters won’t help. its time for a change. time for asset management. there is a strong need for ownership to step forward in a proactive role.

      • T&A4Flames

        Sorry “B”…But “AJHL” nailed it Bang On!

        Give me ONE, and only ONE reason why there is ANY hope for Calgary this year???

        No Salary Cap space, No Young Guns coming up, Your two best players are on the decline, and dont forget about those Sutter Brothers!!

        There is NO HOPE in COWTOWN!

        Happy Holidays FlamesNation.

        GO OIL GO