FGD: Running Out of Time…

Time is an odd concept; in this context, it refers to a tangible number of games for the Calgary Flames, as they just don’t have very many left to get to an amount of points needed to earn a playoff spot.  The Flames play game number 76 of the season tonight against the San Jose Sharks, a game Calgary really does need to win (8 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960).

Once again, the Flames got very little help out of town on Tuesday night, with both Nashville and Phoenix winning their games over Edmonton and St. Louis respectively.  That vaults the Preds to 88 points and the Coyotes to 91, making their playoff futures even rosier than they were before.  For Calgary, trying to reel back in the San Jose Sharks shouldn’t be the focus…all the focus needs to be is avoiding regulation losses like the plague at this point.

Elimination Number: 7

That number will be down to at least 6.5 regardless of the result in Calgary’s game, as the three teams controlling their fate all play tonight in Dallas, Anaheim and Chicago.  The Ducks and Stars play eachother, so if that game turns into a three point game, the situation gets even worse.  So, there’s your grim reaper update for the day.

The Lineup

Calgary’s injury situation continues to be clouded, with another regular forward joining the crew already on the shelf.  You can add Niklas Hagman to David Moss and Brendan Morrison, as Hagman has returned to Calgary with concussion-like symptoms.  He was injured following a partial breakaway in the first period of Monday’s game in LA and didn’t return, which prompted the recall of Greg Nemisz from the American Hockey League.

Nemisz will likely play tonight, unlike the first time he was recalled prior to the trade deadline where he was up for about 24 hours and then returned to Abbotsford.  With Hagman not on the roster, it’s the perfect time for Nemisz to play, but it also highlights how many remaining recalls the team has.  The Flames made a paper re-assign/recall transaction with Mikael Backlund on trade deadline day, and they’ve now also brough up Nemisz, Ales Kotalik and Lance Bouma, meaning they have just one more call up remaining.  It doesn’t sound like any of the four recalls were for emergency reasons.

With no Hagman, things will be all over the place when it comes to line combos for the Flames.  Here’s what they’re looking like tonight…

Alex Tanguay-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos-Curtis Glencross-Rene Bourque
Ales Kotalik-Olli Jokinen-Tim Jackman
Lance Bouma-Matt Stajan-Greg Nemisz

Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk-Steve Staios

Miikka Kiprusoff will get the start in net for the Flames, coming off a strong performance against the Kings.  With seven games to go, I don’t see Kiprusoff getting another night off…or at least, not another planned night off.  Unless of course this team is no longer in playoff contention.

The Opponent

The test Calgary has in front of them is a large one, as the San Jose Sharks continue their torrid pace from the end of January.  They’ve risen to third in the conference and first in the Pacific Division, which is right about where everyone had them pegged at the beginning of the season.  The Sharks haven’t played since Saturday, a 5-3 win over St. Louis, and they’ll be getting an important member of their roster back in the lineup.

Dany Heatley was suspended two games for the above elbow delivered to Dallas’s Steve Ott last week, and San Jose didn’t really suffer without him, winning both the games while he sat out.  Heatley returns which means the line combinations go back to normal, which isn’t good news for the Flames or any other Sharks opponent.  No team in this league can boast the depth San Jose has down the middle, and even with a few "who’s that" cameo players on the fourth line, they just keep winning.  Here’s what to look for tonight:

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Ben Eager-Andrew Desjardins-Jamal Mayers

Doug Murray-Dan Boyle
Ian White-Jason Demers
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun

Marleau and Pavelski continue to run the show at even strength, doing a solid job driving the lines they’re playing on.  For Marleau, having the very solid Clowe on his flank helps, and he’s having a career season for a reason.  Pavelski is a little more impressive, playing with Eager and Mitchell and still doing an impressive job affecting the play north.  That shouldn’t really surprise anyone at this point though.  The top line is just fine too, and even though Thornton sees slightly more offensive situations than Marleau and Pavelski, he’s still an extremely dangerous player.  Adding Couture on his left side is even scarier, because the Sharks have themselves a real player on their hands.

Pretty by the numbers stuff on the blueline, as Murray and Boyle see the top opposition on the most regular basis.  Boyle didn’t play the last time out against Calgary, but has recently returned to the lineup.  A popular blog mate of FlamesNation is eagerly awaiting the status of Sharks defenceman Niclas Wallin, who’s missed the last two games with an upper body injury.

It sounds like the Sharks will be going with their workhorse in Antti Niemi in net tonight.

The Story

All the Flames can do is make it difficult for teams to eliminate them right now.  The more Calgary can scratch and claw for wins and points, the larger chance they’ll still be able to have something to play for on April 9th becomes.  At this point, Calgary can only do one thing, and that’s win as much as possible…and then do a really good job of crossing their fingers too.

  • positivebrontefan

    We northern neighbors feel your pain, and while it is more intense for us right now, we have found some solace in an EPIC fail rather than a slow death march you are on.

    Come join us on the dark side.

  • icedawg_42

    Sick, twisted…and delusional. Calgary may not be great, or even “really good”, but come on..Edmonton is horrible. Pretty much an AHL squad with all their injuries. In any case I may go to that game anyway. Man, last year we at least had the Hitmen’s fantastic run to keep us happy. This is going to be one long depressing summer! On a brighter note, Stajan centering the “AHL kids” is only one step above where he belongs. One more demotion and im happy, as long as he takes his contract with him.

  • So… Stajan’s line plays for what, 8 minutes tonight, while Iginla and company double shift it?

    Lord help us if Stajan/Bouma/Nemisz are actually a line, I can just see them getting their heads thoroughly pasted into the ice.

    On that note… Go Flames?

    • icedawg_42

      It’s early to say, but Bouma has looked pretty reasonable as a 4th liner, and we all know that Stajan is a capable 4th liner as well (heck, even a 3rd line C on many nights!). As long as Nemisz doesn’t crap the bed and they don’t get caught too often in scary situations, they should be alright. I still take immense pleasure in Stajan FINALLY being where he belongs, though.

      And apparently nobody got my Dark Knight reference; or maybe they decided to ignore it in favour of trash talk. 🙁 WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

    • icedawg_42

      Yeah – I cringe when I think about that…the play dies on his stick when he’s playing with seasoned vets, let alone kids learning where to be. Could be painful to watch.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Still maintaining my 97 points as the cut line to make the dance. Flames must get at least one point from this game.

    I’m not sure sure who I want to root for in the Ana vs. Stars game. Worst nightmare is 3 point game. Ducks and Stars both have tough games ahead of them. Let’s hope that one of those teams goes on a losing streak while the other plays no better than .500 hockey.

  • Vintage Flame

    How sweet Coiler and Lamers are BFFs now? You guys joing the C-NATION wagon right now. We are accepting new fans, even if it’s from your boring cities. I was at the Coach and Horses for BOTH Cali games and SHOCKING only 2 Flames jeresys in the house. NICE SUPPORT Flames fan. Face it your wagon has emptied. I have seen more NUCKS car Flags than Calgary. Maybe it’s not your team but your fans that is the REAL problem.

    Watch us ROLL THE WINGS tonight!

    • Vintage Flame

      Yeah! Come join the fans that are celebrating 40 years of Failure! The nucks are the best team to NEVER win anything… yeah!!

      Wooooo… We have Bobby Loooooooooooo.. ser! He’ll look great as he chokes in yet ANOTHER crucial game! Woooooo

      We have Kesler who talks trash and CAN’T back it up, cause he’s a bitch…

      Pffft.. please? Seriously though.. Keep an eye out for that Malholtra kid… Got a real eye for where the puck is going to be!

      Enjoy the banter Todd… Probably because on the Canucks board, you’re all too busy cuddling in the corner, debating who gets to wear the nail polish this time.

    • Vintage Flame

      “Us”, eh? I didn’t realize one of the Canucks players had a troll account on these boards. Or do you work in management? No? Skate sharpener? Oh, that’s right, you have absolutely nothing to do with the team’s success or failure during that game whatsoever.

      Or if you’d like me to form an argument that is a little more similar to your own: HUUUURRRRRRRRRRRR DURRRRRRRR DERP DERP HURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

      • Vintage Flame

        Haaa haaa It’s the secret Hank and Dank language that has been taught to all the other ugly-nuckers out there.

        That just paints such a great visual!

  • icedawg_42

    GET A LIFE TOAD! You guys will choke in the playoffs like you always do. We have a lot of injuries right now, yet we are still in it. We win tonight and that 4/6 from the California teams. Not to shabby. GEt out of the Flames chat please, and tell Hank and Dank to pick up their matching Coach purses.

  • icedawg_42

    I know plenty may disagree with me here, but I STILL think Dallas is more capable/likely to have a losing skid here than Anaheim…or rather Anaheim is more likely to win a bunch more than Dallas. Therefore Im hoping Anaheim puts Dallas down tonight, and it triggers a losing skid for them. I’m really rooting for a regulation decision though either way.

    —Ah yes, that’s the reference SoV – sorry for not noticing…good one! we’re all just so serious

  • icedawg_42

    Bold prediction for tonight, I might get ridiculed for this but here it goes:

    If the Flames WIN tonight, they will MAKE the playoffs.

    I just got this gut feeling in my stomach that if we can somehow pull this game out, we can make it. After tonight we got 4 of our last 6 games against Oilers/Avs/Blues, one against Anaheim and one against Vancouver. That sched favors the Flames. If they LOSE tonight, they are toast. Even if they run the table, if they lost tonight in regulation, the max points they can get is 97, and who know if that’ll be enough.

    BTW, any update on Langkow’s status? I know he’s on the trip but any idea when he’s coming back?

    GO FLAMES GO!!!!

  • Vintage Flame

    If the Flames want to win tonight they ABSOLUTELY have to stay out of the penalty box. San Jose has the 2nd ranked power play in the league, and they are kind of like Anaheim and have lots of fire power. If we go into penalty trouble, our PK has to be very very sharp.

  • GermanFlame

    LOL, FlamesNation never fails to disappoint! I have been away to long, missed this place.

    Hank and Dank – Priceless.

    Hope to get the laptop in gear so I can be there for the chat tonight.

    This is truly it for the season. In my eyes, If they lose they are toast. Win? Well it makes it much more realistic.

    On the Ducks or stars debate, I want the Stars to win. Looking at the Ducks schedule it looks super tough and is something to think about, but I still want the Stars to win as the Flames have a game against the Ducks still, and the next 5 for the stars are all on the road against teams either in the playoffs, or fighting for it.

  • CHECK OUT POST 16. Hate to say I TOLD YOU LAMERS! Unlike you losers, we CAN beat good teams. 2-1 over the Wings. You guys are down 4-2 and it’s ONLY THE FIRST PERIOD! LOL LOL OLOL. Really Calgary Really? Yeah I’ll stick to South Calgary where the real hockey fans are. North Calgary aren’t you guys into soccer? Riiiiiiiiiight.

    Flames are done, and let the EXCUSES begin. Injuries really? IF old man Morrison is your best center you have bigger problems than you think?

    Hank and Dank? Really? Is that the best you got? WEll Hank and Dank are going to go BACK TO BACK for the Art Ross and Hart. YAHOOOOOOOO. I mean LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU.

    Have fun golfing Calgary.