An awful title, I know, but as the Calgary Flames get set to take on the St. Louis Blues tonight, they’ll do it with a new face in the lineup (6 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960). The Flames claimed forward Blake Comeau off waivers from the New York Islanders earlier today, picking up the 25 year old who scored 24 goals last season. On the results front, Calgary is hoping to snap a two game skid after losing the first pair on this four game trip.
The Comeau acquisition is a low to no risk one, even with his lack of points so far this year. Comeau hasn’t recorded a single point in 16 games this year after a career high 46 last year, so it was pretty clear a change of scenery might benefit the player. His $2.5 million cap hit expires at the end of this season when he’ll become a restricted free agent. I spoke to Blake today, and there’s no doubting he’s excited prior to what could be his first game with the Flames.
With the addition of Comeau to the active roster, the Flames assigned Paul Byron to the American Hockey League. The Flames needed to make an immediate roster move, and as much as names like Stajan and Kostopoulos were more popular to be assigned, they are both waiver eligible and thus would have a 24 hour clearance period. Jay Feaster said today in St. Louis they would like to make a roster move in the near future to bring Byron back up.
If Comeau plays, it’ll likely be in place of Byron directly in the lineup. You never know in a situation like this, but the feeling is not much will change in terms of lines.
Alex Tanguay-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Brendan Morrison-Tim Jackman
Chris Butler-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Derek Smith-T.J. Brodie
Both Smith and Hannan are banged up a little, but both are expected to play. If one of them can’t go, Cory Sarich is available as a replacement in a pinch. The Flames are coming off a game where virtually everyone struggled, especially the players put in the high responsibility situations. The top four blueliners speficially fought it against Detroit, while the Jokinen trio had their worst game of the season, finishing a combined -30 in even strength scoring chances.
Miikka Kiprusoff might have let in a softie on Wednesday night, but for the most part, he was very strong against the Red Wings. He’ll get the start again tonight.
How things change thanks to a simple move. Since Ken Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne as Head Coach of the Blues, St. Louis has been a different team. A game below the .500 mark at the time, this deep team has lost just once in regulation in the eight games since, going 5-1-2 in that span. It’s more in line with what this team is capable of, because there are few teams deeper in the conference. The only thing lacking right now is a consistent number one goalie and a true high end player.
That said, there are a number of quality, quality players on this Blues team. Their top line is crushing possession currently, especially down the middle and on the left side. With solid depth players throughout, there isn’t an easy matchup for the most part, except if you get to the fourth line where the Flames might be able to have some sustained success, much like they did against Detroit.
Alex Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Chris Stewart-Patrik Berglund-Matt D’Agostini
Vladimir Sobotka-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner
Brett Sterling-Scott Nichol-Chris Porter
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo
The lineup could be even deeper, as David Perron remains out of the lineup with a concussion, but looks very close to returning to the active group after being cleared to play. Also out with a concussion is Andy McDonald, his second in ten months, so his return is a little more long term. B.J. Crombeen (broken shoulder) is the only other regular forward on the shelf while Kent Huskins (broken ankle) and Carlo Colaiacovo (hamstring) are on the shelf on the blueline.
Starting goalie Jaroslav Halak has really struggled so far this season, so it’ll be Brian Elliott getting the start in net. He’s put up some decent, yet unsustainable, numbers thus far with a .954 save percentage and a .946 number overall. He’s still beatable, but he’s a better option than Halak currently.
The Flames need a win, regardless, and maybe the addition of Comeau will spark things for them. They gift wrapped the game and gave it to the Red Wings on Wednesday, and the fact is, if Calgary isn’t playing smart hockey for 60 minutes, they’re not going to win very much, as they’re just not good enough. The Blues are red hot and a quality opponent, so that smart effort is a necessity tonight.