You know, Fred Durst was kinda lame, but that song wasn’t awful. The video on the other hand is awful, so I refused to post it on here. Anyway, rolling is exactly what the Calgary Flames are looking to do tonight, as they get set to take on the St. Louis Blues tonight at the ‘Dome (8 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Radio Fan 960).
Calgary is currently on a bit of a roll with three straight wins over some pretty good opposition, including an impressive 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday. Calgary remains in 12th place in the Western Conference, still four points back of Colorado for the final playoff spot. What’s even more interesting is how significant games between the Flames and Blues could be from here on out, with four games between them still to go, and seperated by just one point heading in.
It looks to be all systems normal for the Calgary Flames, as they went with an optional skate this morning. The main topic was Craig Conroy who cleared waivers this morning at 10, and according to Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun, he is now very close to retirement. I went for beers with Kent last night and we got to talking about how good Conroy was during that 08-09 season, and I know that I counted myself a fan of his even last year when he was playing big minutes with the Daymond Langkow injury.
Conroy has meant much to this team, as was witnessed during his 1000th game celebration earlier this season. Off the ice, his contributions have been huge, and everyone is well aware of that. However, it’s not like he didn’t have some high value on the ice, so it’s a shame to see him most likely call it a career. If he does, it’ll be tomorrow, as he’d rather not take away from the spotlight on game day.
Hearing from Jarome Iginla inside the room today, he was very quick to say "I don’t wanna talk as if it’s already happened" numerous times, while Brent Sutter did acknowledge that it frees up a roster spot, a spot they could use to activate Steve Staios or bring up a player from the Abbotsford Heat. Here are lines and pairings tonight:
Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla
Rene Bourque-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Niklas Hagman-Matt Stajan-Curtis Glencross
Tom Kostopoulos-Mikael Backlund-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk
Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net, his 500th game in the NHL. It’s a pretty cool milestone for a guy who has turned into a legit number one goaltender since lighting the league on fire upon his arrival in Calgary. Kiprusoff has meant an immense amount to this franchise over his time here, and he deserves some recognition for his tenure even if this season hasn’t been a banner year.
The Blues enter in much the same spot as the Flames, near the bottom of the conference, but still very much in the playoff race. However, unlike Calgary, St. Louis is reeling and they’ve fallen to 13th in the West. The Blues have played 11 games in January with just two wins, and they’re hoping to snap a three game skid tonight.
The Blues made the biggest splash in the off season trade market, acquiring goaltender and playoff hero Jaroslav Halak from Montreal. They’d sign him to a contract shortly thereafter, and he’s been respectable with a .914 ES save percentage. Somehow, with brutal numbers, Ty Conklin has managed to rack up five wins in eight starts as their backup, but Halak is the guy they’ll give the lions share of work to. It’ll be Conklin starting tonight, which might be considered good news for the Flames!
On the blueline, St. Louis is without Barret Jackman (lower body) and Carlo Colaiacovo (eye) on a short term basis; neither will play tonight. Jackman is more of a loss, as he logs some key defensive minutes while Colaiacovo is used in a much more protected role. Captain Eric Brewer sees a fairly large amoung of difficult minutes, starting in the offensive zone 46.9% of the time. He, Jackman and Roman Polak are the three Blues defencemen with an O zone start under 50%, with Polak being buried on a regular basis.
Up front, the losses of Andy McDonald (concussion) and David Perron (concussion) are being felt, however the news is getting better on the former. While McDonald won’t play tonight, he could be back in the lineup shortly after the All Star break, which would be helpful to a sometimes impotent Blues attack. As for Perron, he’s been out since November 4th and hasn’t resumed skating, so it seems like the road back remains lengthy.
Perron and David Backes are both pretty important players for St. Louis, and when on a line together, they do a nice job of affecting the play in a positive direction. With both Perron and McDonald out, Backes has been elevated to the unquestioned number one centre, and has done a decent job, leading the team in scoring with 37 points in 48 games. The return of T.J. Oshie has also been important, as he’s slotted right back into the top six after missing 31 games with an ankle injury. Here are lines and pairings tonight:
Alex Steen-David Backes-B.J. Crombeen
Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Brad Winchester-Jay McClement-Brad Boyes
Steffan Della Rovere-Matt D’Agostini-Cam Jannsen
Eric Brewer-Roman Polak
Erik Johnson-Alex Pietrangelo
Nikita Nikitin-Tyson Strachan
Players for both Calgary and St. Louis are well aware how important the four remaining meetings between the clubs will be. Is there a chance the teams split the series and nothing really is accomplished? Sure. But winning three of four for either team would be pretty darn significant. However, with the Flames back in the conversation, they can’t really afford to think too big picture at this point.