The Calgary Flames will be without two regulars tonight when they take on the Ottawa Senators for the second time this season (7:30 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960). It was announced this morning forward Alex Tanguay is out indefinetely with a concussion while defenceman Adam Pardy, who left Monday’s game with an upper body injury, is also out indefinetely.
So the Flames will be a little shorthanded as they look to extend their eight game point streak against the dismal Sens. Calgary did some good things against the Blackhawks on Monday night taking a hard earned 3-1 win and getting them back into a playoff spot. It’ll be a different test tonight, and if Calgary plays the way they have for the most part over the last 20 games, they’ll probably come away with a win.
Tanguay was not on the ice at practice this morning, which was the first clue something was up. When we saw Rene Bourque skating on the top line, we wondered if Brent Sutter was juggling his lines, trying to get something from further on the ranks. It was initially announced as a concussion for Tanguay but has since been changed to a neck strain; he’s classified as day-to-day. It’s obviously a big loss for the team, as Tanguay has been one of their most consistent performers, and on the offensive side of things, has been doing it all year long.
On the blueline, the Flames were without Pardy for the latter half of the third period on Monday night, after he suffered an upper body injury. Brendan Mikkelson will take his place tonight, seeing his first action since Calgary’s eastern road swing last month. It was either Mikkelson or Sarich getting into the lineup, and I’d personally rather see Mikkelson myself, so I like this decision. Here are how the lines and pairings shake down:
Rene Bourque-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Niklas Hagman-Mikael Backlund-Lance Bouma
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk-Brendan Mikkelson
Hagman returns to the lineup after missing a pair of games, and putting him on the fourth line is just fine with me. He’s been a non-factor far too often as of late, so other players deserve to elevated in place of him. Bouman plays his third straight game, and while he hasn’t been playing a ton of minutes, he’s been doing just fine with what he’s been given.
Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net, which is the right call. The Flames have two points staring them in the face against a poor opponent, and needing every point they can get, I have no problem riding the goaltender who’s been your best. If Calgary is going to want to get where they want to be, they’re going to do it on the back of Kiprusoff, so this is the right call.
The Ottawa Senators are awful. They have a lame duck Head Coach being told what to do by a lame duck General Manager. Lets be honest, Bryan Murray should have been gone a while ago, and this team is likely only going to get worse before it gets better. But we don’t really need to pontificate on the plight of the Sens, as it’s fairly well laid out…that 0-8-2 mark in their last ten is pretty telling.
The Sens won’t have their best lineup either tonight, with Daniel Alfredsson not in the lineup with a back injury. He’s also out indefinetely, and is Ottawa’s leading scorer, so obviously it’s a big loss. Alfredsson is not the player he once was, but for a team that struggles for offence like few other teams in the NHL, he’s still a massive loss. Bobby Butler will slot into the lineup with Alfredsson sitting out.
In terms of quality players, Jason Spezza is the best on this team, and he’s back in the lineup after missing a number of games after suffereing a shoulder injury on Boxing Day. Spezza continues to center the top line, and has a relatively strong Corsi number considering how poor Ottawa’s possession numbers are. Spezza has the lowest zone start on the team (!!) and one of their better Corsi rates…yeah…this guy is actually a pretty good hockey player. The team isn’t necessarily as bad as their awful run of late suggests, but they’re also not a very good team.
One of the biggest reasons this team hasn’t done much of anything is what they’ve got going on in net. Robin Lehner gets the start tonight, This was a guy who was playing at the World Juniors after Christmas, and is now getting sizeable minutes in the NHL, and good for him, but at this point he’s not the answer. Maybe down the road he will be. Brian Elliott certainly isn’t the answer either, as both guys have ES save percentages south of .900. That’s all you need to know.
Here are lines and pairings for the Sens tonight:
Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Ryan Shannon
Zack Smith-Peter Regin-Alex Kovalev
Nick Foligno-Mike Fisher-Bobby Butler
Jarko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil
Chris Phillips-Erik Karlsson
Chris Campoli-Sergei Gonchar
Matt Carkner-Filip Kuba
Phillips is the main guy utilized in a shutdown role, and he’ll be deployed as such tonight. Karlsson has some real nice potential, and has put up some nice numbers. He’s still developing as an all round defenceman, obviously, but he’s definetely their brightest young player right now. Carkner returns to the lineup after missing time with a lower body injury; he’ll take the place of Brian Lee.
Well, this is a game Calgary needs to win, and Calgary should win. Even if the Flames were in 14th place heading into this game, they’d still be in a good place to win this hockey game. Ottawa is reeling beyond belief at this point, and losing Alfredsson will be huge. Tanguay’s loss will be big for Calgary too, but I think the Flames are better suited to deal with it their injury than Ottawa is with theirs.
The Flames didn’t get any help on the out of town front last night, which underlines the two biggest words for Calgary down the stretch: just win.