The Calgary Flames got away from their gameplan as of late a little bit on Friday night, falling 5-4 in overtime at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. Over the last month or so, the team has stayed pretty consistent in the way they’ve played, and the way they’ve returned to their game. That’s what they’ll look to do tonight against the Vancouver Canucks in their fourth meeting with their division rivals (8 pm, CBC and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960).
Calgary is getting next to no help around them, which isn’t surprising, so single points aren’t going to get the job done. This will be a tough game to win, as the Canucks are who they are, and are full marks for holding down the top spot in the conference. What’s important is for the Flames to get back to their game, and make the loose affair from last night just a blip on the radar.
The Flames will make no changes to their lineup coming off the overtime loss to the Ducks last night. They didn’t have a morning skate, as you’d expect coming off a game last night and a late arrival into Vancouver. So, that means Steve Staios will play his second straight game on the Calgary blueline, and Lance Bouma will continue to see work on the fourth line.
Alex Tanguay will miss his third straight game with what’s being called a neck strain, something he developed in Monday’s win over Chicago. Tanguay was on the ice Friday morning with the Flames, even though he didn’t play Friday night. It means he’s relatively close to returning, and the injury isn’t something that’s going to keep him out of the lineup long term. If he does get back in, expect him to return to the top line. Here are lines and pairings tonight:
Rene Bourque-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Niklas Hagman-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Tom Kostopoulos-Mikael Backlund-Lance Bouma
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk-Steve Staios
The Jokinen line was hard matched against Anaheim’s top line last night almost shift for shift, and they didn’t do an awful job with it. Even though they all ended up under water in the scoring chance count, they did a decent job with possession and let’s face it, you’re going to have some chances against when playing those three. The Iginla line was very meh, with the second line for the Ducks eating them up at times.
Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net, and I don’t have a real problem with the decision. You’ve got a game against the reeling Avalanche on Monday night, and that might be the best time to get Henrik Karlsson some action. He plays much better on the road, and the Avs are starting to come back to earth in a big, big way.
The story is a pretty simple one to write in Vancouver right now. Who would have ever thought Sami Salo would be the guy Canucks fans would look to to potentially solve their injury woes. With a severely depleted blueline, Salo will make his season debut tonight, and the team is going to need it. Vancouver lost Alex Edler last month thanks to back surgery, and while he might be back for the playoffs, he’s still a ways off. Keith Ballard went down last week with a sprained MCL and Dan Hamhuis was added to the injury list on Wednesday after suffering a concussion in a collision with Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf. Eeek, that’s three pretty important minute eaters gone in Vancouver.
Salo tore his achilles tendon over the summer and it’s been a long road back for the running joke around the league. The guy has suffered 40+ injuries in his NHL career, but when he’s healthy, he’s a very good all round defender. The Canucks will welcome his shot on the second powerplay unit, and to be honest, they’d welcome anyone above average in the defence corps right now. Salo had two goals in three games with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose while down on a conditioning stint.
Up front, the Canucks will make a slight change, going with another debut, this time in the form of Victor Oreskovich. He’ll play on the fourth line with Tanner Glass and Raffi Torres. It’s the top two units that Calgary needs to worry about tonight, though, and that’s not news to anybody. The Sedin’s have killed the Flames in previous meetings this season, and Ryan Kesler’s shorthanded goal in the third period was the reason why their last game went to overtime and a shootout. My self loathing man love for Kesler has to stop, but I just don’t see how that’s possible. Here are lines and pairings tonight:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows
Mason Raymond-Ryan Kesler-Mikael Samuelsson
Jeff Tambellini-Manny Malhotra-Jannik Hansen
Raffi Torres-Tanner Glass-Victor Oreskevich
Kevin Bieksa-Christian Ehrhoff
Sami Salo-Aaron Rome
Andrew Alberts-Chris Tanev
Roberto Luongo makes the start in net, and why not, it’s Saturday night. His numbers are very strong, with an impressive .933 ES save percentage. We can make fun of Lu all we want, but the guy is playing some good hockey right now.
Sum It Up
A Calgary win might boost expectations on this team even more, but let’s be realistic. This will be their 58th game of the season, most of any team in the Western Conference. But, that’s not important for the Flames, as right now, they have one thing they can control…how they play. A strong outing for the visitors may not yield a win, but it’ll be huge for them overall, heading into Denver on Monday.