…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.
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.
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 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.
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.