FGD: Minny!

For the first time this season, the Calgary Flames entertain their Northwest Division rivals in the Minnesota Wild, as Calgary returns home for a game before heading back out on the road for another pair of games (7:30 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).  Calgary plays nine of their 14 games this month on the road, as they try to get up above .500 for the first time this season.

There is a glass half full and glass half empty approach when looking at the last little while for the Flames.  On the negative side, it’s accurate to point out the team’s inability to get above even so far this season, a mark they can’t be hovering around for too much longer.  On a more positive note, Calgary has won four of their last six games and took two of three on their most recent road trip.  It all depends what mood you’re in this morning, I guess.

The Lineup

It was an optional skate again this morning for the Flames, as that’s been the routine for the last couple games.  Mikael Backlund was on the ice practicing with the main group for the second straight day, as he’s been cleared for contact and to play.  The injured centre remains on IR for the time being and won’t play tonight, but might be good to return to the lineup in either Chicago or Denver over the weekend.

David Moss and Curtis Glencross were both back on the ice after missing practice yesterday, and there’s a fairly good chance both play tonight.  Glencross is good to go, as yesterday was just a maintenance day while Moss said he’s feeling good and hopes to get back in after missing Calgary’s win Sunday in Denver.  David blocked a shot against the Sabres which is why he had to sit out a game; he’s officially a gametime decision.  If both play tonight, it looks as if Brendan Morrison and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond will sit.  Because nothing is ever for sure at a morning skate, here are projected (only projected) lines:

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Niklas Hagman-Matt Stajan-Rene Bourque
Tom Kostopoulos-David Moss-Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Derek Smith-Anton Babchuk

Looks like Cory Sarich sits out once again after missing the Avalanche game as well.  Babchuk has been just fine in his last couple outings, as he’s finally taking it upon himself to be a true offensive threat.  When he’s doing that, at least there’s real value in having him in the lineup, as opposed to us scratching our head as to what he’s doing out there.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net, after another strong outing Sunday; his .936 even strength save percentage puts him right up there among the best goalies in the NHL to start the season.

The Opponent

Ahh the Minnesota Wild.  Off to a 7-3-3 start, this team underwent some significant changes during the offseason, trading away two established members of the team in seperate blockbuster deals.  The Wild first sent Brent Burns to San Jose at the Draft in their home building, getting Devin Setoguchi back in return along with a prospect and a first round pick.  Later in the offseason, it was Martin Havlat finding his way to San Jose with Dany Heatley going back the other way.  Both new additions have helped the Wild to their good start, tied for the team lead with eight points.

Guillaume Latendresse-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Devin Setoguchi-Matt Cullen-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Nick Johnson
Colton Gillies-Darroll Powe-Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz-Marek Zidlicky
Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser

I will say the Wild are a little deeper up front than I can remember, with two decent scoring lines and a very effective third unit.  Brodziak’s group (specifically he and Clutterbuck) has been buried by new Head Coach Mike Yeo and they haven’t been hammered in the process.  The scoring is very balanced currently, with five of the top six scorers tied for the team lead with eight points and Latendresse lagging just a point behind.

As for that blueline, well, you can see for yourself.  After the first pairing, things drop off substantially as Minnesota is without two of their top six in Clayton Stoner (finger) and Greg Zanon (groin).  While Zanon doesn’t seem close to returning anytime soon, Stoner may be able to return to the lineup for this one tonight.  Mike Lundin is also out of the lineup with back spasms.

Riding a four game winning streak heading in, Minnesota can attribute much of their early season success to goaltending.  The NHL’s first star of the week is Josh Harding, who has put up rather, um, unsustainable totals thus far in his five appearances.  A .965 save percentage (overall and even strength) isn’t a number that any human goaltender can keep up for an extended period of time, but to say he’s in a groove would be an understatement.  Harding is also up at .963 when the Wild are shorthanded, so, yeah, expect those numbers to come down.  Niklas Backstrom, by the way, has been right around his high end self, with a .934 ES save percentage; he’ll get the start in net tonight.

The Story

It’s another divisional opponent, and another team the Flames are going to have to fight with for a top eight position in the Western Conference.  Calgary had so little success against this team last year, a very mediocre team at that, and it played a large part in the Flames missing the postseason for a second straight season.  Plus, getting above .500 might be nice to see!

  • xis10ce

    A win here would be a huge step in the right direction helping us over .500 for the first time this season. Also it’s great news that Backlund might be back as soon as the next away game. Let’s hope things start to come together for the flames.

    Really hoping some of the slumping Flames pick up their game tonight. Gio, Scoreface, Bork to name a few.

    Go Flames Go!

  • ALL THE WAY IN

    I really miss seeing Backlund on the ice this year. This was supposed to be his break out year and I am curious to know what impact he would have on this team if he were playing right now. Horak continues to impress me with his hockey IQ. Iginla looks slow and not so powerful in the corners as of right now and needs to pick it up. Sarich is a complete bum and should only play in the playoffs… If we make it.

  • everton fc

    Staubitz v. Jackman seems inevitable. Perhaps Kosto dropping them, as well. Just feel this way, this evening.

    If Backlund centres Iggy and Tanguay… and they find magic… We need to see this trio together, so we can get a sense of what we truly have, in Backlund.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Let see what team shows up. The team that dominated the Wings or the one that blew farts against the Sabres.

    Anyone hearing any trade rumors about the Flames? With Backlund returning something is bound to happen soon.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @ ChinookArch

    I heard Bourque’s name in relation to the Turris situation (fiasco?), but Maloney wanted a 1st round pick as well. Probably a lower pick coming back the other way.

    I hope Feaster has better sense than to flirt with the 1st round pick in a year that we don’t really know what we have in this team, especially this early.

    Trading a 1st round pick for essentially a 1st round pick (in Turris), gets the organization no further ahead, expect for maybe Turris could be further along the development curve (maybe not if he’s not playing, or maybe not if we’re destined for top 5 draft pick range). That’s why you back away from that trade in a hurry. No need to over-pay for an unproven player.

    Losing a roster player in Bourque while merely swapping 1sts is madness in my view.

    • everton fc

      there is no way in hell i would trade a first for turris, bourque is also too much for a malcontent who has yet to proof himself in any league other than the bchl

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Where did you hear that one?? Just Bourque for Turris I would say Feaster got kicked in the nuts. Turris has done basically sweet all, why would we do that in a huge draft coming up. Hey, Feaster needs to get the Buffalo boys on the hotline, they’ve got kids like Gragnani & Kassian that arent where they would like & if they throw in a salary dump like Hecht for the likes of Bourque, Nemitz & a 3rd. I’d be all over that like a fly in a cow pasture.
      I’ve chatted with Detroit fans in some of their forums & Bourque is very much like Franzen, should be 40 goal scorers if they brought their A game to 80% of the games. There would be no way in hell Holland ever trades Franzen & a 1st for friggin Turris & a phoenix later pick. This kind of talk just upsets me, probably because I’m not sure if Feaster would be stupid enough to pull the trigger on a trade like that or not.

  • RexLibris

    I’d heard a while ago that Calgary was following Vancouver in hiring a sleep specialist to ensure that they’re players were getting the right amount of REM sleep a night.

    This game must be part of that plan.

    I’m pretty sure even Minnesota fans don’t like watching their own games. Can you imagine paying for season’s tickets to watch 42 episodes of the hockey equivalent of “Message in a Bottle”.