FGD: Polar Opposites

I had no choice but to use the Coke Christmas polar bears, as we get closer to the festive season; but also because a date with the Blue Jackets must feel just like Christmas for a lot of NHL teams.  After beating the league’s top team on Friday night, the Calgary Flames start a four game road trip tonight against the league worst Blue Jackets (5 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).

Whether you want to hold Friday’s 5-2 win over Chicago up as Calgary’s best effort this year or point to their 4-1 win in Detroit earlier this month, I’m fine either way.  Both were good examples of what can happen when this Flames team executes their blueprint: they’ll stay competitive and maybe even pull out a win or two against some pretty darn good opponents.  Against THIS opponent tonight, they darn well better win if they do the same!

The Lineup

Return of the Mo tonight in Columbus!  It looks like Brendan Morrison will return to the Flames lineup tonight, officially a game time decision.  Morrison hasn’t played since Calgary’s November 4th loss in Buffalo, missing games as a healthy scratch and most recently as an IR casualty.  If he does return, it’ll be in place of Matt Stajan on the fourth line between Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos.

Alex Tanguay-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Brendan Morrison-Tim Jackman

Chris Butler-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
T.J. Brodie- Scott Hannan

With Morrison on the active roster, David Moss will move to the IR with an injury suffered earlier this month.  Moss hasn’t played since Calgary’s 4-3 win over Colorado more than a week ago and isn’t on this four game trip, meaning the earliest he’ll likely return would be a week from tomorrow at home to Nashville.

The Jokinen trio was at their very best on Friday night I felt, going shift-for-shift with Chicago’s only consistently effective unit centred by Jonathan Toews.  All three of them finished at least even on the night in terms of 5-on-5 scoring chances, which is saying something knowing how many opportunities Toews and Marian Hossa had early on.  The job that line is doing, specifically the duo fo Glencross and Jokinen, has allowed that matchups to be much easier on Iginla et al on a fairly regular basis.

It looks like Henrik Karlsson will get the start in net for the Flames, taking on the team that helped him earn his first win of his NHL career.  Miikka Kiprusoff, who has been stellar to start the season, will likely see the remaining three games on this trip in Detroit, St. Louis, and Minnesota.

The Opponent

Ah yes, the 4-13-2 Columbus Blue Jackets: this season’s version of the 1992 Ottawa Senators.  Honestly, knowing the lineup assembled by Columbus, there is no excuse for this group.  Should Jackets fans have expected a Minnesota Wild esque start?  No, of course not.  But with additions of Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, and a couple key re-signings, the pieces were in place for at least an improved group.

Well, that hasn’t come to pass yet, although the team is playing much more competitive hockey over the last couple weeks.  One thing they haven’t gotten is NHL level goaltending on anything close to a regular basis, with Curtis Sanford getting the start in net.  He’s elevated himself with some decent, yet limited work thus far.  He starts tonight as much because Steve Mason was injured during morning skate, taking a puck in practice and leaving.

Vaclav Prospal-Jeff Carter-Rick Nash
Antoine Vermette-Samuel Pahlsson-Derek Dorsett
R.J. Umberger-Mark Letestu-Ryan Johansen
Cody Bass-Derek MacKenzie-Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin-Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot-James Wisniewski
John Moore-Grant Clitsome

You can see some new faces on this Jackets team, as GM Scott Howson has tried to slowly improve his flailing group, adding Nikitin in a trade with St. Louis while acquiring Letestu from Pittsburgh.  Columbus is without Kristian Huselius until the end of the month as he continues to recover from a torn pectoral muscle.  They’re a relatively healthy bunch, as Radek Martinek (concussion) is their only other regular on the shelf.

The Story

Just don’t lose.  This is a Columbus group that, sure, has been playing better as of late.  But they’re also a bad hockey team and a group the Flames should beat if they do anything close to the efforts we referenced above.  I ask them not to lose as much for my sanity on the call-in show tonight as anything else.

  • icedawg_42

    Went to the Flames-Hawks game Friday in Calgary in the Iggy jersey, 5-2 Flames

    Went to Hawks-Oilers game Saturday in my Toews jersey, 9-2 Edmonton

    Flames-Jackets tonight, my sanity hangs in the balance.

  • icedawg_42

    as far as playing to the ‘blueprint’ goes, it seems to be a case that the Flames “can” execute when the game at hand means something to them. They get “up” to play against Detroit and Chicago, lets hope they dont play down to Columbus’ level here. Every Game issupposedto Matter!

  • OMG Pat. If they lose & even worse, lose by 2-3 goals, you poor bas@#*d tonight on the talk show. Scary but I like the way the Oilers dissected the Hawks way better than the way our boys did. Kipper had to play great. I think Khabbibulin could have had his lap top & played Poker Stars on Saturday night. Maybe Feaster should put a call to Chicago & see if they want to trade JBO for Keith.:):)

  • The BJ’s aren’t nearly as bad as they seem. They aren’t good to be sure, but I don’t think any team is really 4-13-2 bad in the post lock-out NHL.

    Pat nailed it though, the big issue for these guys is goaltending. It’s ironically bad luck that Mason got injured in the morning skate…he’s the guy I’d prefer the Flames face.

    • Vintage Flame

      It’s ironically bad luck that Mason got injured in the morning skate…he’s the guy I’d prefer the Flames face.

      Since it’s the Sanford and Son show tonight, if Calgary can get a few quick ones on Sanford, maybe he gets the yank and we get a free shot at York.

      Either way, I’d like to see the Flames out shoot Columbus 2-1 tonight.

      • I wouldn’t bet on that. The BJ’s average per game shot differential is +2.7. The Flames? -3.3.

        Some of that is because Columbus has spent so much time trailing in games, of course, but they aren’t the Wild or Preds who don’t tend to generate much (in terms of shots at least).

  • Vintage Flame

    The biggest thing I noticed in the Hawks game, while at the Dome, was that the Flames were able to play in the middle of the ice. You didn’t see them dumping and trying to clog the boards and shuffle the puck along.

    Decent possession with a much better break out from their own zone than we’ve seen in the past.

    Against the CBJ’s, the Flames need to come out like Stempniak did against Chi-town. Drive forward, back Columbus up and keep the movement going. Don’t stand still and keep shooting.

  • Dr. Nick

    I have a bad feeling about tonight and I think I might jinx the Flames just by saying that. I think a lot of Flames fans will be reserving spots in Le Chateau du Crazy if the Blue Jackets win. In fact I think a new word will have to be created in order to explain the level of insanity this team will cause if they lose…. something like extremomaximuscrazynutsomytosis or something.

    Anyways… Good luck Flames and Don’t Lose or Else.

  • Dr. Nick

    …. or it will be like in Total Recall when Arnie is trying to say two weeks and his costume breaks down

    Same thing but in Flames jersey and she is saying “Flames Lose.”.

  • RexLibris

    I think Columbus is a team that, frankly, no coach wants to play because they are the kind of bad where you don’t want to be one of the few teams that lose to them. They aren’t ’73 Caps bad, granted, but bad enough.

    The one caveat to that though is that I think Mason IS the goalie most players want to face. His confidence would seem to be shaky and the chance to get a few soft goals on him would have most shooters eager.

    Here’s a thought: Feaster trades a pick or depth roster player for Mason and then uses him as a practice goalie for guys like Bourque, Stajan, Iginla, Glencross, Stempniak, etc. Let them build up their confidence in practice. With a guy like that in net, who wouldn’t want to take a shot?

  • xis10ce

    If CLB can go into a SO with Boston you beat your a$$ they can beat us. Problem is everyone see’s them as the punching bag of the NHL given their current standing.

    Are they in line for a great shot at Nail, yes; are they still a potential threat? Also yes.

  • everton fc

    True, CBJ are nto as bad as their record. Also true, they are not a playoff team, even with the slow start.

    Hope; that the Flames last game vs. the Hawks is a good sign the team is beginning to “click”. A convincing win this evening would give us more hope.