The Calgary Flames played their worst game of the early season against the St. Louis Blues, falling 5-2 in the second contest of the campaign. Now the Flames look to right that early season defeat when they host the Blues tonight in game five of a a six game home stand (7 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary was largely impressive in their 4-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday night, carrying the play to a large degree when the game was tied and within a goal. While the Avalanche played the score and went on a slanted chance run in the third period, it was still a deserved win for the Flames as they snapped a two game skid and moved within a game of the .500 mark. The third period wasn’t the best example of how to protect a lead, but by and large, there were a lot of things to build on and carry over from Wednesday into tonight.
Another game day, another optional skate for the Calgary Flames, making it very difficult to determine who is or isn’t playing. We can tell you Curtis Glencross will return to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s win with "lower body soreness"; today, both coach and player confirmed a return. He’ll likely spend most of his time with David Moss and Olli Jokinen. With no lines this morning, we’ll go off the combos as practice yesterday:
Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Rene Bourque-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich-Derek Smith
Now, Brent Sutter told us today "there’s a very good chance" the Flames might go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen like they did against the Avs. If that’s the case, Anton Babchuk would slot in as the seventh defender while Stajan would likely come out of the lineup, joining Niklas Hagman and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond in the press box. It’s an interesting way of handling things, and makes line matchups less of a factor, but it does allow you to protect Babchuk to a large degree, which is something he needs at this point in time.
After a decent outing against the Avalanche, including a very strong third period, Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net. I’d expect him to play the remainder of this home stand before maybe sitting again in Calgary’s back-to-back set next week against the Red Wings and Sabres.
Since their win over Calgary in their home opener, the Blues have played some average hockey en route to a 5-4-0 record and a third place spot in the Central Division. What’s curious is that four of those wins have come from goaltender Brian Elliott, who sits 4-0 as opposed to Jaroslav Halak’s 1-4 record on the season. It’ll be Elliott getting the start in net this evening.
Three forwards currently sit on the Blues sidelines with injuries, most notably Andy McDonald, who suffered his second concussion in ten months earlier this month. He joins David Perron (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) on the injured list. Even with those injuries, it’s a decent group of forwards for the Blues, who have scored at a decent pace in their first nine games.
Vladimir Sobotka-David Backes-Chris Stewart
T.J. Oshie-Patrik Berglund-Matt D’Agostini
Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner
Evgeny Grachev-Scott Nichol-Chris Porter
Kent Huskins-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak
Steen and Arnott both lead the Blues with eight points with a number of other players contributing thus far. There are some quality players both up front and on the blueline, with Backes being the guy most important to their success up front. He plays against the toughest players and sees plenty of defensive time, and having a reliable left wing like Sobotka allows Stewart to freelance a little more in an attempt to get his offensive game going.
On the blueline, Polak and Jackman are still the two guys counted on in the tough spots late in games, which has been a constant over the past few years in St. Louis. Coach Davis Payne uses them extensively inside their own end, opening Shattenkirk up to show where he’s most effective: moving the puck and playing at the other end. His five points so far are good evidence of that.
As we talked about heading into the last meeting between these two teams, this is a team the Flames have to take some wins against. If Calgary is going to be in the playoffs at the end of the year, it’s likely going to be at the expensive of a Blues team many believe are going to be playoff bound when it’s all said and done. The Flames have played some decent hockey the past three games, and carrying that over to this one is as important as anything else.