FGD: On The Bright Side…

…the Calgary Flames only play the Red Wings one more time this season: tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome (7 pm, Sportsnet West and The FAN 960).  On the less bright side, the Flames have lost all three of their previous encounters with the Red Wings this season, and they’re trying to snap a two game losing skid prior to a four game Eastern Conference road trip.

After losses to the Islanders and Canucks, it’s Flames gameday at the ‘Dome, and we all know the challenge the Red Wings pose each and every time Calgary plays them.  Even with significant injuries right now, Detroit still boasts one of the best players in the game and they’re a team that has Calgary’s number so far this season.

The Lineup

Not a whole lot came from morning skate today as the Flames decided to go with an optional format, with most players opting not to practice.  Niklas Hagman sat out on Wednesday in Vancouver to make room for Mikael Backlund.  The right choice was made in returning Backlund to the lineup, and it was made about five games too late, and it was also the right choice to sit Hagman.  The thing is, the Flames could have elected to sit any number of other forwards and it also would have been the right choice.

Let’s go through the numbers.  Hagman hasn’t had a point in eight games, and has just three in his last 14 games (just one goal).  Brendan Morrison is pointless in five and has just one assist over his last nine games.  Rene Bourque has three points in 13 games.  Matt Stajan is without a point in his last seven games and has just two goals all season.  And then there is Curtis Glencross, who is absolutely fighting it.  He has just one point over his last 17 games, and hasn’t registered a single point in 11 contests.  Glencross hasn’t scored since November, when he potted a shorthanded marker in Philly; that’s a span of 17 games plus a pair of games sat out as a healthy scratch.  Those are some scary-ass numbers.

( February 4, 2010 – Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images North America)

Ales Kotalik, who has just a single goal in his 14 games this season, is also in that mix, and looks to be the man singled out to enjoy the game from the press box tonight.  Kotalik joined Craig Conroy in a white jersey at practice yesterday, and wasn’t part of line of rushes during that skate.  Here were lines and pairings yesterday:

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

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

To make matters worse when it comes to offensive production, Calgary’s top forward line has turned in three mediocre performances.  When the guys below you on the depth chart aren’t getting it done (15, 16, and 25 not withstanding), your top guys certainly have to, and Jarome Iginla et al have to pick up their socks against an elite opponent tonight.

Miikka Kiprusoff starts in net.

The Opponent

The Red Wings may not be as red hot as, say, the Vancouver Canucks, but it would be a stretch to say they’re struggling when it comes to results.  Even with the injuries they’ve suffered as of late, the Wings still have points in seven of their last ten games, and they really have been kryptonite for the Flames this season.  Detroit took a 2-1 win at the ‘Dome earlier this season and has won both games at the Joe Louis Arena so far, including a heartbreaking 5-4 loss in overtime on November 21st.

As for injuries, the Wings have them, and to pretty important players.  They’re without their best player, and perhaps the NHL’s best player not named Sidney Crosby, in Pavel Datsyuk.  He broke his right hand just before Christmas and won’t be back until late this month.  He headlines the Detroit injured list, but he’s not the only notable name.  Dan Cleary (ankle) won’t return until late this month, while Mike Modano (wrist) isn’t scheduled to return until March.  Valtteri Filppula is questionable with a tweaked groin while Patrick Eaves is expected to return tonight after missing three games with an infected elbow.

That’s quite the list.  Here are projected lines and pairings tonight:

Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Tomas Holmstrom
Jiri Hudler-Valtteri Filppula-Todd Bertuzzi
Kris Draper-Darren Helm-Patrick Eaves
Drew Miller-Justin Abdelkader-Jan Mursak/Tomas Tatar

Nicklas Lidstrom-Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson-Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall-Ruslan Salei

Jimmy Howard will get the start in net for the Wings.

Dave Reginek/NHLI/Getty Images

Even with the Datsyuk loss, the Wings still boast Zetterberg, who is in the same realm when it comes to overall impact.  Both of them is ideal, obviously, but Zetterberg does just fine carrying a little more weight.  The top two lines is where the scoring comes from, while names like Lidstrom, Rafalski and Kronwall are chipping in their own numbers in good chunks.

The Story

A few things to watch for in this one, the first being the aforementioned struggles the Flames are having with their depth scoring, or secondary scoring if you will.  The second would be how the Flames stack up against a second very good opponent, having not been anywhere close against the Canucks on Wednesday.  I know the spin is "we got a lot of shots, we had the puck, we were around the net" but they just weren’t good enough. 

  • wattree

    What worries me isn’t the loses to the top teams in the league, it’s when the middle of the pack & bottom feeders give you fits. The loss to the Islanders is a more telling tale then the one to the Canucks. We know that this is not an elite team, but is it even midgrade at this point?

    By the way Pat, yesterdays ‘what we learned today’ has to be some of the finest radio I’ve heard in a while. Kudos to you for putting up with Tweedledee & Tweedledum

  • icedawg_42

    Been wondoring today what everyone thinks…after 41 games…at this point, who las the LEAST upside? Stajan, Kotalik or Jokinen??? (I did not say Most Downside) 2 different conversations….

    my pick is Stajan, I just can’t see what he brings to the ice, either by the numbers, or by the intangibles…to me he’s an even worse contract than Jokinen

    • PrairieStew

      Kotalik – hands down.

      I’ve not seen anything from him that shows he is worth league minimum, let alone $3m. Stajan still can be effective playmaker if given good conditions and wingers playing well.

    • Been wondoring today what everyone thinks…after 41 games…at this point, who las the LEAST upside? Stajan, Kotalik or Jokinen???

      Jees, I don’t know…I’d go Jokinen. I don’t think you can expect much more than what you’ve gotten from him the last 10-15 games.

  • everton fc


    Good point. Losses to the Isles and Devils are perfect examples. These are points that’d put us in the playoff hunt. That said, we are not in the playoff hunt because we are not a playoff team. Which is also why we lose to the likes of the Islanders… the Devils…


    I’d have to agree – Kotalik, hands down. Jokinen doesn’t bother me as much as others on this roster, who play soft, are inconsistent, and don’t hustle. And Stajan can be a good playmaker, albeit on a 2nd/3rd line.

  • @icedawg_42

    I would have to say Kotalik as well. He just doesn’t seem to have the ability to put him self in a sucessful spot when on the ice. He doesn’t use his size to his advantage and always looks like he is two steps behind everyone else. There is no emotion in his play. At least with Joker and Stajan they show emotion and look like they are working, for what, sometimes I don’t know!
    For Kotalik to be successful on this team he needs to use his size in front of the net getting some dirty goals and/or put himself in the slot or top of the circles to use his shot.

  • The Red Wings went curling before the game. That’s how worried they are.

    Also, when are we going to stop looking at who is scoring and start looking at how they are scoring? Jackman should be on the top line. Maybe him Jarome and Backlund/Moss. Whatever.

    On the bright side…we can boo bertuzzi