The Calgary Flames are riding their longest win streak of the season, and it sure as hell better continue tonight when they play host to the New York Islanders (7 pm, Sportsnet West and The FAN 960). Much like Saturday’s game against Edmonton, the Flames are going to have to go out of their way to lose this game…which we’ve seen the team do before.
The Flames look for a fifth straight win tonight at the ‘Dome, and on this current four game streak, they’ve deserved all eight points. Their last game was a 2-1 win over the Oilers, and even though the Flames didn’t completely dominate things, they were far and away better than Edmonton and did more than enough to win the hockey game. Well, if they play their game, they’ll probably come away with a fifth straight win.
Henrik Karlsson gets the start in net for the Calgary Flames, coming off a pretty strong outing his last game out. Karlsson made a ton of big saves against the Blue Jackets on December 21st, and he’s looked good in outings against New Jersey, Anaheim and Minnesota. I know a lot of people thought he might play on the New Years back to back, but the feeling is Karlsson needs a chance to play at home…his prior four outings have all been away from the Scotiabank Saddledome. His last home game was the 6-5 loss to Colorado, a game Karlsson really struggled in, so it’s an opportunity to impress in front of the home crowd.
No other lineup changes for the Flames, who sent Mikael Backlund and Brendan Mikkelson to the American Hockey League on Sunday morning. The team is winning, so they will stick with the same 18 skaters in their same combinations…and they’ll look 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 Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk
The Iginla line is coming off one of their more mediocre performances in recent memory, as they were matched up against an AHL caliber blueline, yet didn’t generate a ton of things in the offensive end. They won’t get a ton of great resistance tonight either, so it’s a chance to return to the very strong form as of late. The line centered by Matt Stajan really needs to start pulling it’s weight though…when you’ve got $9.5 million invested in the trio, the play as of late is unacceptable. Hagman has been a non factor for far too long while Matt Stajan continues to frustrate to go along with his lack of production (two goals). And well, Ales Kotalik is…alive.
Well…here come the (red hot?) Islanders, who have won two straight games and six of their last ten. That’s fairly significant for a team with as many injury issues as they have, and as bad a team as they have. After a start where a lot of people took notice, the Isles went on an EXTENDED losing streak, and are seemingly on one of the upswings of a season. They’re last two wins have come over elite hockey teams, so give them credit…they’re playing scrappy, and extra time wins over Detroit and Pittsburgh have energized the locker room.
Hearing from a lot of the players this morning, the team feels like they’re playing a little closer to what they’re capable of. Rick DiPietro will get the start in net after Dwayne Roloson was traded to Tampa on Saturday night; DiPietro was in for New York’s win over Pittsburgh. Here are lines and pairings for tonight:
Matt Moulson-John Tavares-P.A. Parenteau
Michael Grabner-Frans Nielsen-Josh Bailey
Blake Comeau-Rob Schremp-Jon Sim
Matt Martin-Zenon Konopka-Jesse Joensuu
Andrew MacDonald-Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton-Milan Jurcina
Dylan Reese-Bruno Gervais
Eeek. Depth issues seem to be the word of the day for the Isles. They’re without their top defenceman (Mark Streit) and they’re without a top six forward in Kyle Okposo. They win by playing it close to the vest and playing scrappy hockey.
The Flames have won their last two games against "teams they should win" and that’s important. These are the games Calgary needs to win, because they’re not going to win every game against the teams ahead of them…but if you can bank these games against bottom feeding teams, you can pile up points. That’s what the Flames need to do at this point…so win this game, and then roll the dice in Vancouver.