FGD: A Wild Finish

I know many will shed tears or droop their heads when they found out tonight’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild is the final one this season (7:30 pm, TSN on The FAN 960).  With three losses against already, the Flames look to finish the season series even, while they also look to extend their five game point streak against a Northwest Division opponent.

Calgary finished their four game road trip in a fairly successful manor Monday night, earning a point in a 5-4 overtime loss to Montreal.  However, the fact the Flames battled back from a 4-0 deficit seemed to make that certain OT loss a little sweeter.  As it was, Calgary earned six of a possible eight points on that road trip, and yet, they still find themselves eight points back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.  Ahhhh, the fun of being 14th place.

The Lineup

Miiikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net for the Calgary Flames, after a recent stretch of uncharacteristic play from the number one tender.  Kiprusoff was yanked in two of the four contests on Calgary’s recent road trip, being replaced by Henrik Karlsson in both Carolina and Montreal.  He did have a solid outing Saturday against Toronto, but overall, he hasn’t been good enough on this five game point streak for the Calgary Flames.  I still think he works his way out of it, so we’ll see if he continues to do that tonight.

Cory Sarich says he’ll be "good to go" for tonight’s game after taking a puck off the foot Monday night.  He said the swelling has gone down significantly and he feels almost back to normal, so he’ll take up his regular spot beside Mark Giordano on Calgary’s second pairing tonight.  Sarich has seen some pretty sizeable minutes over the last little while, and remains the only choice as Calgary’s 4th guy on the blueline.  Overall, he’s been okay in the role, and is obviously helped by Gio, so while I don’t believe Sarich is necessarily a top four guy at this point, he hasn’t been awful in the role.

After two solid games in Ontario, Adam Pardy had a rough game in Montreal, making a few mistakes that stood out, including his overtime shot that was blocked and sent the other way for P.K. Subban’s winner.  He was a constant topic on the call-in program Monday night, and I think it’s probably okay to lay off the guy.  Pardy isn’t a top four defenceman at this point, so when he’s elevated to a larger role, mistakes are going to be made.  Against the Sens and Leafs, he wasn’t playing against…well…anybody, whereas the Habs boast a little more firepower.  Pardy will be back to his normal role tonight, so the pairings will look like this:

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

Up front, not a whole lot of change.  Tom Kostopoulos will miss his fifth game in a six game suspension and will be eligible to return to the lineup Saturday in Vancouver.  At morning skate, the lines were tweaked a little bit, with David Moss bumped up to the third line and Niklas Hagman knocked down to the fourth unit.

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

The top line, especially the two wingers, really brought their ‘A’ stuff in the latter half of the Montreal game and the way they were driving things really seemed to trickle down.  Kotalik has goals in two of his last three games and Rene Bourque has started to produce as well.

Finally, Jarome Iginla has been excused by the NHL from the All Star Game in Raleigh so he can spend some time with his grandmother, who’s suffering from some health challenges.  Daniel Briere gets the nod in his spot.

The Opponent

Suddenly the Minnesota Wild are playing some pretty good hockey, and suddenly they’re knocking on the playoff door.  After a 4-1 win Tuesday night in Edmonton, the Wild have wins in two straight over divisional opponents, and have moved within three points of the final playoff spot in the West.  Sitting at 23-18-5, the Wild are winning games by making the most of their offensive opportunities, relying on some pretty good goaltending, and pushing things to the outside as much as possible.

The team does allow a lot of shots, averaging over 31 against per game while putting a league-worst amount on net at 26.  That would probably explain why virtually everyone on the team is in the minus when it comes to their Corsi number.  This is a team that you can generate on, and team that isn’t going to come back from a lot of deficits.

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Martin Havlat leads the way in scoring with 40 points in 46 games with Mikko Koivu right behind him at 39.  It drops off from there, as we know this team has never been the most offensively potent.  I keep forgetting that Guillaume Latendresse only played eight games this season, and is a large part of their attack.  Latendresse remains out with a torn labrum and there doesn’t seem to be a time table for his return.  They’re also without Marek Zidlicky and his 22 points off the blueline, as he recovers from a shoulder injury suffered late in December.

Defenceman Marco Scandella is out about a week with a concussion while goaltender Jose Theodore is still recovering from a hip injury.  The good news on the Wild injury front comes in the form of Niklas Backstrom, who is healthy again after a hip injury suffered on New Years Eve.  He was the backup last night in Edmonton.  Here are lines and pairings for tonight:

Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettinen
Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Martin Havlat
Eric Nystrom-Matt Cullen-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Brad Staubitz-John Madden-Chuck Kobasew

Nick Schultz-Brent Burns
Clayton Stoner-Greg Zanon
Cam Barker-Jared Spurgeon

The guess is Niklas Backstrom gets the start in net after Anton Khudobin started last night in Edmonton.  He’s allowed just one goal in Minnesota’s last six periods of hockey, but Backstrom is back and healthy after missing three weeks with a hip injury suffered on New Years Eve.

The Story

The Flames were beaten by a combined score of 7-2 in December’s home-and-home series with the Wild, and the stakes on this one are going to be high, as they tend to be these days in Calgary.  The Wild have been on their biggest roll of the season, and are finding ways to win hockey games.  As a result, they’ve put some space between themselves and the Flames, so it’s a team Calgary needs to chase down.  With six teams to leapfrog, you can’t let any of them earn points on you, and so Calgary needs a regulation two at home tonight.

PS…there’s no way I’m not using that picture when I had the chance.  No way.  I feel a sense of accomplishment.

  • Another snoozefest on the docket apparently… just keep Havlat under wraps, and send Jackman out there to keep Mr Nystrom in check, and we should be good. Q-Doba is nothing special (he let in some stinkers against the Avs a couple games ago).

    On a side note, looks like Iggy won’t be attending the All-Star game due to family reasons. Now there are no Flames in the ASG, and just another reason not to watch.

    Hopefully the NHL won’t decide to suspend him, but who knows with Bettman.

  • Vintage Flame

    Lol.. I think TSN is going to get better ratings showing the player draft than CBC does showing the actual game.

    Iggy won’t get suspended.. He has been excused from the game.

    .. On a side note.. BRAVO Pat for great use of that picture!!!

  • Vintage Flame

    As always a good test to see if the Flames really deserve to be contending for a playoff spot or throwing in the towel. Beating a team not in a current spot to leapfrog is pretty much a must.

    PS – love the gratuitous hot ladies Pat, keep em coming

  • otto

    I see that the fan 960 is now sports net radio.Is it too much to hope for Peter Maher on TV and radio?I’m sure the network could save some money and I could watch the games with the sound on.

    • Bob Cobb

      You want Peter Maher on TV? He is barely more tolerable than helium head Peter Loubardias, I swear that guy is still waiting for puberty for his voice to lower. Peter Maher talks like he has marbles in his mouth and takes forever to make a point, just retire already.

  • Wish that Gio or Tanguay could have gone to the ASG in Iggy’s place. I understand that Briere is great and deserves to go, but if every team gets to send someone, the Flames should be able to send a replacement……Hemsky is going for pete’s sake!
    So frustrating.

    • Bob Cobb

      Hemsky is out with a concussion, chances are he won’t be going either and the Oilers won’t have a rep either so get over it. If Ryan Whitney was healthy he should be the guy to replace Hemsky. It’s no big deal as the allstar game is nothing more than a glorified popularity contest, besides Gio is overrated, and Tangauy, please, he only looks like he has skill because of the rest of the craptastic forwards the Flames have.

        • PrairieStew

          Peter Maher is a great guy – in the community , promoting the team giving his time for good causes for 30 years and for that I give him credit. I have never liked his play by play style though and only listen to him if forced to. His encyclopedic knowlege of players, their history of performance and transactions is his downfall. He is so eager to add information about players while the play is going on, that if you are listening you often can not tell where the puck is. Not so bad if you are a TV guy – but with radio you do need to be descriptive, it’s why it is called play by play.

          Loubardias is a little over the top at times and I can understand how it annoys some people, but I think he’s fine. His style represents a bit of change from traditional TV PBP, but that is not unlike the change that has taken place with the in house announcers. The announcers at the old Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens were very composed and matter of fact, a style also employed by Russ Peake as the Flames original in house announcer. Now all of the in house guys are super dramatic when announcing home team goals, shouting and stretching out the players name and to me it’s just less classy.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Well we have spent 40+ games complaining about the team, coach,gm, president and ownership. The play by play guys were the next logical step! As you can see we have already branched out to radio, tomorrow will be news reporters, until eventually we all log in to complain about this website at nauseum. 🙂

  • SmellOfVictory

    I cried a little inside when I heard before the montreal game that Steady Steve was almost healthy. I admit that I had completely blocked out the fact that we was still on this team. When he went down with his injury, isn’t that when the team started to play well? Coincidence?

    I predict this current streak of wins and points will continue, until Staois steps back into the lineup. At which point the team will rattle off 10 straight losses and end up in the 3rd overall position…

    So now, do I hope he comes back, or do I hope he stays in the press box?!?!?

  • PrairieStew

    I wouldve started Kaarlson tonight. Kipper has had trouble dealing with the Wild for the past couple of seasons, and he always seems to be the second best goalie on the ice when hes playing his finnish country, Nicklas Backstrom.

  • PrairieStew

    Maher is a Flames employee, so he has to call things with a certain slant. As for Peta Frontallombotomy, his voice is just to damn annoying. Bamboo under the fingernails, fingernails on a chalk board, the neighbours dog barkin for hours are nothing compared to him. So complain all you like, just do it WITH AUTHORITY. ps leave Corey Sore itch and Rainy booork alone. lmao.Poor Charlie Simmer,he must wish for suicide by cops after every period.