With Friday’s news concerning Mark Giordano, it’s very clear the Flames will have to make due without one of their top minute eaters for an extended period of time. Giordano was second on the team with an average of over 22 minutes of ice time per game, something that is not easily replaced. Tonight, Calgary plays their second game minus Gio when they take on Edmonton Oilers for the second time this year (8 pm, CBC and Sportsnet 960).
Giordano suffered a ruptured tendon in his leg on Tuesday and will have another MRI in three weeks; for the time being, he’s out of the lineup indefinitely and all indications are it’s something that will require a good while of recovery time. Tonight is Round 2 of the Battle of Alberta, after Calgary came from behind to win the first meeting 2-1 at the Saddledome.
With Giordano missing Thursday’s loss to Columbus, Cory Sarich was the one pegged to fill in, seeing 12:45 of ice time in the 4-3 shootout defeat. Sportsnet’s Rhett Warrener reported Friday morning he has requested a trade, which is a good scoop, but also kind of funny. It’s my belief the Flames have been trying to move the 33 year old defender since the start of the season but have been unsuccessful. It’s kind of hard to deal a guy who’s been a healthy scratch 9 of the last 12 games with that contract, regardless of his expiring contract. Waivers may be the way to go when it comes to granting Cory’s wish.
Tonight Sarich will make it 10 of the last 13 games as a healthy scratch, as he’ll sit out in favour of the recently recalled Joe Piskula. The former Wisconsin Badger will play in his sixth NHL game and first with the Flames organization after they signed him to a new contract on July 1st. Piskula played a lot with T.J. Brodie in Abbotsford this season, and had he not been recently injured at the time of Anton Babchuk’s injury, it might have been him getting the first call up. This will be the youngest and least experienced blueline we’ve seen the Flames ice since the end of the the 2008-09 season, when they ran into salary cap issues.
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay-Roman Horak-Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
T.J. Brodie-Scott Hannan
Derek Smith-Joe Piskula
If Backlund’s line can do what they did Thursday again tonight, the Flames will have a decent shot at winning their 13th game over the Oilers in the last three seasons. All three of those guys finished well in the plus when it came to ES scoring chances against the Blue Jackets, and it was good to see them have the night they did. It was also a really strong game from Alex Tanguay for a second consecutive game, and Calgary needs more of that out of their current leading scorer.
Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net tonight; it’s expected Henrik Karlsson will start Sunday in Vancouver.
The Oilers enter tonight’s action tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference after their 6-3 home win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday. It was a game where Ryan Jones was rewarded for his tireless work this season, coming away with a three goal performance in Edmonton’s eighth home win of the season. Jones has been hammered with defensive zone starts this season, but has done a really nice job with them, showing that last year was no flash in the pan. With the lines mixed up from the last meeting between the teams, the defensive responsibility seems to be a little more spread out than it was before.
Ryan Smyth-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
Sam Gagner-Shawn Horcoff-Ales Hemsky
Magnus Paajarvi-Eric Belanger-Ryan Jones
Darcy Hordichuk-Ryan O’Marra-Lennart Petrell
Ladislav Smid-Tom Gilbert
Ryan Whitney-Jeff Petry
Theo Peckham-Andy Sutton
Fifth in league scoring, Nugent-Hopkins has been given every opportunity to succeed by Head Coach Tom Renney, as he’s just shy of 70% on offensive starts through the first quarter of the season. And hey, why not? If Renney has players he is comfortable burying defensively, why not give the high ground to guys like Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and the injured Taylor Hall. Last year’s first overall pick is out until late December with a shoulder injury; the Oilers are also without Anton Lander who has sat out a few games recovering from an infected cut in his hand.
Edmonton’s top pairing deserves a lot of credit for the success of the team so far this year, with Gilbert and Smid playing the toughest minutes on the team on a nightly basis. Yeah, Gilbert sits -3 on the year, but that’s a number that doesn’t tell the whole story of how good he’s been, averaging the most ice time on the team by far this season. Smid is second on the team in that category, and they’ve been huge for the Oilers this season.
Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start in net for Edmonton, the first time he’ll face Calgary this season.
I really didn’t think the Flames and Oilers would be seperated by seven points come the start of December, but that’s exactly how the standings look today with Edmonton having the advantage. Calgary beat them last time out in a close game that was really tight throughout, and I’d expect a tight game to be what we see once again tonight. Following their collapse in Thursday’s loss, the Flames would very much like to get back on a winning track heading into Vancouver tomorrow.