FGD: Gio Conservative

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.

The Lineup

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 Opponent

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.

The Story

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.

  • Big Cap

    hey i loved joe piskula in goodfellas, him and bobby deniro, man what a rivetting movie. sorry wrong guy, piskula was the dude on saturday night live that nailed the sinatra skit, oops sorry wrong guy again. anyhow, the flames are in deep deep swine schizen now, the loss of their mvp, and possibly true leader gio has all but sunk any invite to the dance. uncle feasta should officially announce the rebuild.

  • loudogYYC

    I’m not reading into this too much, but it’s kinda odd that Kipper would get the start tonight and not tomorrow. I guess both offenses are as dangerous so far this year, but we normally play better against the Oilers.

  • loudogYYC

    Gonna be late for the chat tonight…. gotta go watch the Canes get 3 in a row! Anyways, Flames get the Oil on a back-to-back, albeit both at home, but still, Oilers might be a little fatigued. Gotta play RNH physical and not let him get out in the open. Should be a fun one!

  • Big Cap

    You want to know how you rebuild? How you get guys like RNH and Taylor Hall playing for your team? 1.)You start off by sucking, then 2.) get hit by the injury bug, like last years Oilers. Flames were on target with the first proposition, and it looks like they are on the way to the second. Bingo! Lottery pick on the way to start the rebuild.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      Or you could rebuild by looking at teams who followed the recipe you described above: sucked for a long time and have accumulated young talent.
      Teams like the Blues, Panthers, Islanders etc have top six forwards who can’t crack their top six. Teams realizing they can’t play all their prospects in the roles that complement skill sets.
      Maybe you can get those guys for need (solid vet like Jokinen or similar).

      Doug Weight to Edmonton, Marc Savard to Calgary (maybe not best example), Kipper to Calgary. All guys that were stuck behind other guys. All guys that flourished once given a real opportunity. All guys acquired for less than best asset.

      Maybe all you need is 3-4 of those guys and you can quickly change your team especially with the prospects you already have in your system.

      If you could get a free agent or two to come, mid range guys who cost $4-4.5 you could drastically change your team QUICKLY without gambling on draft picks becoming franchise players and yeah all the sucking.

      Obviously having top 5 picks is a great way to rebuild but it’s not the only way. Edmonton, Chicago followed that script and they have a nice story. Look at the Isle or Columbus, where are they? Then look at how Detroit has been good for so long.

      Purposefully sucking is wrong on so many levels, some teams never stop sucking once they go down that route.

  • RKD

    Well this means that Bouwmeester has to step it up a lot and play much better. Joe Piskula, never heard of him.

    This team’s d-group is getting more and more unrecognizable.