After a good 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche to finish off 2010, the Calgary Flames look to start 2011 on the right note, as they take on the Edmonton Oilers for the fourth time this season (8 pm, CBC and The FAN 960). With consecutive wins over the Avs, Sabres and Stars, the Flames look for their longest win streak of the season when they take on the worst team in the Western Conference.
It’s the Battle of Alberta tonight at Rexall Place and it’s another huge game for the Flames. Three straight wins is great, but it hasn’t done much in the grand scheme of things, as they still sit seven points back of the playoffs. Before their three game streak, they were eight points back…so three pretty solid wins, and they’ve gained one point. Nonetheless, this is a game the Flames should win, and so is their game against the Islanders on Monday.
The Flames lineup is kind of up in the air for tonight after staying with the same recent lineup against Colorado yesterday. The speculation is Henrik Karlsson will start in net after Miikka Kiprusoff went against the Avs. Karlsson is coming off four pretty strong outings, including a really good performance in a losing effort before Christmas against Columbus. I know the team needs to keep winning, but the team also needs to manage Kiprusoff correctly…so if they do indeed go with Karlsson tonight, it’ll be the right call.
As for lines and such, again, it’s uncertain with the team not on the Rexall Place ice this morning. The team stuck with the lineup they’ve been going with as of late last night, which looked like this:
Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Brendan Morrison-Rene Bourque
Niklas Hagman-Matt Stajan-Ales Kotalik
Tom Kostopoulos-David Moss-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeestser
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk
Without scoring chances to back it up, I don’t know for sure, but it seemed like the Iginla line did a pretty good job, especially offensively, against the top line of the Avalanche featuring Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk (and as I published this, Kent published scoring chances, and I was actually correct…JOY). They were matched up shift for shift, and Iginla et al generated some opportunities in the offensive end. Not to say Duchene’s unit didn’t get things done either, because they had chances of their own…but that is usually the case when Iginla’s line goes out against top flight opposition.
Calgary scored their three goals yesterday with some striking similarities. First, they all had Flames players going hard to the net and following up on the play, whether it be Jackman, Kostopoulos or Tanguay doing it. And two of those goals came off Avalanche turn overs…the Oilers certainly turn the puck over, so taking advantage at both blue lines could be a key tonight for the road team.
The Oilers are what they are at this point…a very young team with a lot of great pieces for the future. Against the Avalanche on Thursday, they were dismal in the first period falling down 3-0 before mounting a comeback in the final 40 to force overtime and a shootout; they’d eventually fall 4-3. When the Oilers start feeling it, they can be a handful, especially when they’re going north-south. Yet, even when that’s happening, you can capitalize on turnovers.
Edmonton’s biggest injury right now lies on the blue line, with Ryan Whitney out at least a month with an ankle injury…his status is kind of uncertain right now, as he may need surgery, or may just need time to recover. Shawn Horcoff continues to recover from an MCL injury, and he’ll be out till mid-February. Add on top of that an "unnamed" defenceman nursing an injury tonight, and the situation is a little unclear. If this unnamed d-man doesn’t play, Shawn Belle could step into his spot…but that’s uncertain.
The Oil are also making changes not related to injury, with youngster Magnus Paajarvi not playing tonight, sitting out as a healthy scratch. At least according to him. It seems like everything is uncertain, so if Paajarvi doesn’t play, it’s not even totally sure who would go in his place…either JF Jacques or Steve MacIntyre. Sigh. Does this team have to make everything so damn complicated?
The top two lines will probably stay the same, with Sam Gagner in between Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall serving as the first line. Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Ales Hemsky served as the second line against Colorado. Nikolai Khabibulin probably gets the start in net, with his 23-8-4 record against the Flames to go along with a 2.26 goals against.
The Flames should win this game when the Oilers are healthy, so they need to beat a team that is beat up and struggling (two wins in ten). But, if the Flames don’t play a good, hard game they can easily be beat by the Oilers, as was submitted on opening night when Edmonton took a 4-1 win. It should be a lot of fun regardless, and with the Islanders looming on Monday, some good hockey could yield a nice five game win streak for the Flames. And good hockey is the key.