There used to be a time when games against the Colorado Avalanche were exciting. They boasted names like Sakic, Forsberg, Roy, and Blake. They were high flying, high scoring, and high octane. However, they always beat the Calgary Flames. Well, this current incarnation of the Avalanche is nowhere near as good, and as of late, they sure as heck don’t beat the Flames. Tonight in Denver, they meet for the third time this season (8 pm, CBC and Sportsnet 960).
Seven consecutive wins for Calgary over Colorado dating back to last season, including two this year. Less than a week ago, the Flames took a 2-1 win in Denver adding on tot their 4-2 October win over the Avs at the Saddledome. Calgary is coming off a 4-1 loss in Chicago last night, a game that sparked some heated debate in the postgame article and on my always interesting call-in program on Sportsnet 960. The Flames are now two games below .500, so an eighth straight win over the Avalanche couldn’t come at a better time.
PS…if anyone gets my picture reference today, or the first one to do so and explain how it applies, will win some sort of prize. And not a super lame one either.
Because the Flames got into Denver early on this morning, no morning skate for the team except for the likely-to-be-scratched members of the team. Brendan Morrison, Matt Stajan, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Cory Sarich all skated with Henrik Karlsson this morning, meaning it’s likely the exact same lineup will be ice tonight. We don’t know whether the lines stay the same or not, but here’s what they were last night:
Alex Tanguay-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-David Moss-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Derek Smith-T.J. Brodie
Overall, not bad season debuts for the new guys. Backlund was probably Calgary’s most dangerous player and was certainly the best player on the top line. With 14 games missed to start the season, plus a good chunk of training camp, he really didn’t look to miss a beat at all. I know he got beat on the third Chicago goal, but overall I liked his game and it was promising to see.
We didn’t see anything special from Paul Byron, but I think we can give that a little time as he plays just his second NHL game with the Flames tonight (and tenth overall). Yeah, he flubbed a two-on-one in the second period, but to judge his impact on the team in one game would be criminally silly. I did like the game of Brodie though. He was very steady in his 15+ minutes of ice time, which is exactly what you need from him in his first game. If he plays more games with the big club, we’ll likely see him jump up into the rush a little more, but good stuff in his first game.
With Karlsson skating this morning, it’s a good bet what we speculated on yesterday is going to happen: Miikka Kiprusoff plays in the back-to-back scenario while the backup may very well play against Ottawa on Tuesday.
The 8-7-1 Avalanche snapped a losing skid this week by coming from behind to beat the New York Islanders 4-3 in overtime. Hovering around or just over .500 is kind of where I see Colorado this year, which is a step forward from the team they were last year. That said, the Avalanche are very dangerous offensively, and particularly so with their number one ranked powerplay. Calgary gave Chicago four chances on the PP last night, which is likely too many in Denver tonight.
Joakim Lindstrom-Paul Stastny-Milan Hejduk
T.J. Galiardi-Matt Duchene-David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog-Ryan O’Reilly-Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod-Jay McClement-Kevin Porter
Jan Hejda-Erik Johnson
Kyle Quincey-Shane O’Brien
Ryan Wilson-Ryan O’Byrne
Colorado’s third line is still by far their most effective, as they’re absolutely murdering possession right now with sub 50% offesnive zone starts. If they’re matched against the Horak trio tonight, I fear they might have some really good success. However, Head Coach Joe Sacco has liked to use the O’Reilly unit against one of Calgary’s top two lines in the previous games this season.
After Jean-Sebastien Giguere got the start against the Islanders earlier this week, it’ll be Semyon Varlamov back between the pipes for the Avalanche tonight.
While probability might suggest Colorado is due for a win over Calgary, that really doesn’t matter for tonight’s game. I believe if the Flames play the same type of hockey they did against Chicago last night, they’ll have a decent chance at winning. That said, second halves of back-to-back games haven’t been kind to Calgary, and that whole consistency this has been kind of an issue too…