FGD: The Wily Ones

The Calgary Flames have swept two Western Conference teams this season, in the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators.  Yet they’ve also had some extreme difficult with a few conference foes this season, and the Flames hope to avoid a season series sweep against one of them tonight.  For the final time this season, Calgary plays host to the Phoenix Coyotes in another crucial conference matchup (7:30 pm, TSN and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960).

This is game 72 for the Calgary Flames, which continues to be the highest number in the league.  If 96 points is the magic number for the Flames to claim a playoff spot, they’d need a run of 7-3-1 in their final 11 games to hit that total.  It’s certainly not unrealistic, but it’s also not a guarantee either.  I’ve done a little rough math, and I’ve got Calgary’s elimination number at 11.5 as it stands right now, factoring in Nashville as the probable eighth place team.  A Flames overtime or shootout loss would be worth the half number, while a regulation loss would knock off a full number (thanks tips).

The Lineup

The big news of yesterday surrounded Flames forward David Moss, who left practice very early on in a lot of pain with what looked to be a lower body injury.  The situation was updated today by Head Coach Brent Sutter, who classified the injury as "indefinite, certainly not day-to-day."  That, coupled with the confirmed news that the Flames have placed Ales Kotalik on re-entry waivers seems to point to the fact that Moss won’t be back any time soon.  Suffice to say, that’s really not good news; for Moss or the team.

The three other players who missed practice yesterday were all on the ice for an optional skate this morning, with Curtis Glencross in good spirits after the birth of his first child.  He’ll play tonight as will Olli Jokinen, who doesn’t anticipate being moved up to the top line with Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.  Freddy Modin also took the optional skate, but wasn’t able to say whether he’d play tonight after already missing one game due to "maintenance".

Because it was an optional skate, and because the injury situation is so up in the air, and because the coach won’t say who’s moving up to the top line, it’s almost silly to speculate on lines at this point.  Follow along on Twitter at around 7 pm and I’ll post the lines from pregame warmup, which might give us a better indication as to who’s going to be playing with whom.  I will say that Rene Bourque popped up to the top line yesterday during practice with Tanguay and Iginla, but that may mean nothing.

If Modin can’t play tonight, it will be a scenario where the team goes with 11 forwards and seven defencemen, because they have to.  In that case, it’s likely Brett Carson would get into the lineup for his second game with the team.  Brendan Mikkelson seems to have been pushed to eighth on the depth chart.  Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net.

The Opponent

Once again, the Phoenix Coyotes enter action tonight in a playoff spot, sitting fifth in the West and 13 games above the .500 mark.  Their last game against Calgary wasn’t anything impressive, it was just a good all round show of why this team wins hockey games.  They were opportunistic offensively, they were strong in collapsing in front of the net, and they put their faith in a strong goaltending performance from Ilya Byrzgalov.  Yep, that’s pretty much the formula for Phoenix success, and they’re a playoff team right now because of it.

The Yotes are a little healthier tonight than they were on Thursday, albeit only slightly.  Forward Martin Hanzal remains out of the lineup, which is a significant loss with the type of minutes he’s asked to play on any given night.  That being said, Phoenix has done a nice job without him in the lineup at both ends of the ice.  In the long run, they won’t have much success without him, and some think his lower body injury may be a little longer team than first thought.  On the positive side up front, Ray Whitney returned Sunday against Anaheim and added an assist, so he’ll be in tonight as well.  Here are lines and pairings:

Lauri Korpikoski-Eric Belanger-Shane Doan
Mikkel Boedker-Kyle Turris-Brett MacLean
Taylor Pyatt-Vernon Fiddler-Lee Stempniak
Ray Whitney-Andrew Ebbet-Radim Vrbata

Keith Yandle-Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Adrian Aucoin
Michal Roszival-David Schlemko

The Coyotes blueline is still a little beat up, missing a pair of top six guys.  They won’t be getting Ed Jovanovski back from a facial injury until late in the season, if then.  Rostislav Klesla remains day-to-day after taking a puck to the face, and he’s missed the last two games himself.  Klesla was the big Phoenix pickup at the trade deadline, as they parted with Sami Lepisto and Scottie Upshall to bring him in from Columbus.

After a 38 save shutout against the Flames on Thursday, it’s Bryzgalov back in the Yotes net tonight.  It’s the final meeting between the teams, so it means I get to use this video clip.  It makes me smile.

The Story

The Flames have battled adversity in a number of different ways over the past little bit.  They’ve been a 14th place with the season all but written off, and they’ve had some injury issues to deal with off the start of the season.  The most important this is how crucial this game is for both teams, so injuries or not, Calgary needs to come with an effort capable of getting a win.  The Coyotes aren’t a team with a ton of high end talent, so an injury depleted Flames team may still be able to get their first win of the season against them.

  • everton fc

    I wonder if they’ll also recall Meyer? He could fill that fourth line centre role. (Or Conny comes out of retirement – can you imagine the reaction from the fanbase? Almost like Fleury’s comeback. Great marketing strategy…)

  • I’m excited for the kotalik call up; I know there are going to be a bunch of good posts ripping into him tonight that will entertain me.

    On another note; Why Kotalik? I didn’t know that we needed a bench warmer so badly. Considering Kotalik’s contract i’m sure it is cheaper to just install a heated bench if their are concerned about the temperature of the pine. Yeah I heard he is scoring points in the A but still, we should call another young guy up and bring some energy into the room.

    • Considering Kotalik’s contract i’m sure it is cheaper to just install a heated bench if their are concerned about the temperature of the pine. Yeah I heard he is scoring points in the A but still, we should call another young guy up and bring some energy into the room.

      But who? Bouma is the best choice to play bottom three forward minutes, but there is no one on that team that can play top nine minutes…other than Kotalik.

      His cap hit doesn’t matter right now.

  • everton fc

    In all seriousness… Kotalik has, what, 19 pts in 18 games (or vice versa), mostly assists… But Playfair says time and time again he’s handled the demotion like a pro. Perhaps the assignment in Abby has given Kotalik his game back a bit?

    I’ve heard many Flames interviewed after his demotion seeminly indicating they liked Kotalik, as a person…

    This has been one crazy run since Christmas. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if #26 comes into the lineup and puts on a performance similar to what he did in pre-season, before his knee-injury.

    That’s my hope. We should all be pulling for Kotalik. I have this funny vibe… says he puts up some points while up here, and perhaps stays until the season’s finished, be it regular, or post-season.

  • everton fc

    You know, calling him up is a bit of a risk for Feaster, if he is indeed claimed. It could backfire a bit.

    Not sure anyone will pick him up, of course… but if someone does….

  • I don’t hate the move to call up Kotalik.

    The salary cap hit doesn’t matter at this point, as we’re past the trade deadline. If they have the room, which they do, then go for it.

    He’s responded in the AHL, putting up good numbers and by all accounts, being a true pro. Obviously you don’t WANT to call him up, ideally, because that means the team has injuries…but as a replacement player, at this point in the season, he’s the best case scenario.

    Assuming he gets claimed of course.

  • Truly, Kotalik is the best short-term option on the ice right now. He’s a mediocre NHLer, but he’s an NHLer. No one else on the farm is, outside of maybe Ryan Stone.

    His contract sucks, the risk associated with recalling him sucks, but he’s probably not as bad as his terrible 20 game stretch suggests.

    That said, he in no way replaces Moss on this team. Flames just don’t have an adequate choice otherwise.

    • That said, he in no way replaces Moss on this team. Flames just don’t have an adequate choice otherwise.

      Agree 100%

      The Flames will need a current roster to step up instead.

      It’s interesting to note…if a team claims Kotalik, he couldn’t play with them till next season.

  • Gange

    Yeah if someone claims Kotalik it’s only to put the gears to the Flames. Of course how badly do they want to do it considering they’ll have to keep paying him.

    It’s not like they can claim him and then next year give him back.

    He’ll clear.

  • Super_Gio

    Couldn’t help but laugh if he was claimed…

    I would actually rather see Kotalik instead of Modin. Lance Bouma playing tonight too? would he play with Backlund you figure?

  • everton fc

    I’ve always thougth Kotalik would have done okay this season if he never got that knee injury. Just had a feeling.

    Doesn’t matter now. If he wants a second chance, he just got it. What if he puts up some timely points down the stretch? Not to mention he’s one of the best around, when it comes tot he shootout.

    I’m pulling for the guy. I know we all are. And I have a feeling he may actually respond. Positively.

    I mean it.

        • everton fc

          Those words were flowing through my head as I was reading Kent’s comment….

          Well cross our fingers, and drink alot of beer tonight, thus forgetting this conversation ever happened!

      • icedawg_42

        Aaargh! dont say that! I hope Kotalik can make good..put up a few points and maybe get grabbed for a 7th round pick over the summer. The fact that he’s been such a model citizen in the minors actually gets him a few points with me – so here’s hoping. I’ll be taking in the game at the dome with Vintage_Flame this evening, so no chat for us, and we’ll have to regrettably forego the TELUS commercials…but listen for the “CHUD CHUD CHUD” chant from the second tier.

  • icedawg_42

    I dont think the Flames are gonna win tonight, and its simply because of Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flames just cant seem to buy a goal against him, let alone a win.

  • icedawg_42

    Pizza, beer and hockey…tonights gonna be a good good night I can feel it!!

    Sorry but that songs been stuck in my head all day so I thought I would share!