FGD: Avalanche of Success

It seems all the Calgary Flames do lately is beat the Colorado Avalanche (or Edmonton Oilers).  In the case of the former, the Flames have taken eight consecutive victories over them, sometimes in crushing fashion and sometimes in bizarre fashion.  Any fashion will work for tonight, as Calgary plays host to Colorado for the fourth meeting between the teams this season (7 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).

The last time these two teams met, it was the Flames getting out to a 4-0 lead before watching Colorado pull within one in the third period and come very close to tying things up on a few occasions.  Even still, it was the third straight Calgary win over their division rivals this season; tonight’s fourth meeting between the clubs is the last until March, when they finish their season series with a pair of games.

The Lineup

Some pleasant news this morning saw David Moss skating with the main group at an optional morning skate, which is good to see after he’s missed the last 11 games with a lower body injury.  He’d be a welcome addition to the lineup and it sounds like he’s within two weeks of returning.  That was the only notable piece of news from skate this morning, as not much is gained typically from an optional.

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-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

Roman Horak will sit out with Morrison playing down the middle tonight; the rookie centre hasn’t sat since October 20th.  Brent Sutter says he wants Horak to see a few things from up top while watching tonight.

It’ll be Miikka Kiprusoff in net tonight after allowing six against the Hurricanes on Tuesday night; still, he’s been fairly decent overall this season, and he’s given the Flames a chance to win virtually every single night.  You can expect him to start Saturday against the Oilers and news Tuesday in Nashville for sure before resting in either Thursday’s game in Tampa or Friday’s affair against Florida.  That’ll be the first chance to see Leland Irving in action, as it sounds like he’ll be the guy with Henrik Karlsson on the shelf for up to two months.

The Opponent

The Avalanche look to bounce back after their 6-0 loss in Vancouver on Tuesday night, a game where Kevin Porter went knee-on-knee with David Booth of the Canucks.  A decision on Porter regarding a suspension could come down prior to the game tonight, so he may not centre Colorado’s fourth line against the Flames.  I didn’t think it was necessarily an intentional play, but it put Booth out four to six weeks.

Not only have the Avs had horrible results against the Flames, they’ve also been struggling on the road as of late, going 0-5-1 in their last six.  They’re without two regulars tonight, as it’s doubtful Paul Stastny will play as he continues to nurse a torso injury while Ryan Wilson won’t play thanks to a concussion.  Young Stefan Elliott will play his seventh game with the Avs, coming off an 81 point season with the Saskatoon Blades last year; he has a pair of goals so far in his young NHL career.

T.J. Galiardi-Matt Duchene-David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog-Ryan O’Reilly-Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik-Jay McClement-Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod-Kevin Porter-Brandon Yip

Kyle Quincey-Shane O’Brien
Erik Johnson-Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda-Ryan O’Byrne

Landeskog, O’Reilly, and Winnik have been broken up with the Stastny injury, but there’s no questioning how good that trio has been this year.  Landeskog may not be putting up the numbers of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton, but his contributions in Colorado have been very impressive, looking at his possession rate coupled with his sub-50% offensive zone start.

It sounds like Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the start in net for the Avs saving Semyon Varlamov for Friday’s game in Edmonton.  Both Kobasew and McClement will play their 500th career games tonight.

The Story

It could be said the Avalanche are due for a win against the Flames, but knowing how they’ve played against Calgary, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accurate.  If the Flames can push their agenda early on, I think they wilt the Avalanche and win their ninth straight against their division rivals; with tonight’s opponent and Saturday’s game against Edmonton, you’re looking at two games that should be wins for the Calgary, so I’ll be disappointed if they’re not 6-1-1 over eight games after the weekend.

  • icedawg_42

    Can’t say it’s a bad thing to see Horak sit for a game. What harm can it do? I’m pretty conflicted about these “winnable” games – in that, the LAST thing I want to see is the Flames go on another “Miracle” run to 9th place. It’s still a guilty pleasure watching them win though. So I suppose my head and my heart can continue to scrap it out to see who the true Flames fan really is.

  • xis10ce

    Well, we are the slump buster for other teams, and Col is in a slump. If the team goes into this game thinking it’s a freeby I think they will find themselves on the loosing side in a hurry.

  • everton fc

    So Sarich still sits… How’s Piskula looked?

    I have a feeling Irving will unseat Karlsson as our #2. I think he’ll take full advantage of his debut as #2, and do much better than many anticipate. Would be nice to see…

    Someone’s gotta give down the middle when Moss returns, for I sense Moss will centre our fourth line, and what a fourth line that could be. Either Horak or Stajan look to be the odd-men out. Morrison is certainly earning his spot in the nightly rotation, especially after his performance against the ‘Canes. And many here have commented on Stajan’s success in his current role.

    Still, Stajan is way overpaid for his current role. And Horak deserves ice-time, as a young player earning a long look. I can’t see any other way Moss comes back intot he daily rotation… Unless you move Bourque, who is currently playing out of position, but scoring a few goals lately.

    Thoughts?

      • Vintage Flame

        Stajan has had time in the press box, but I couldn’t tell you just how much (Kent? Pat?). For a brief time I believe we had Joker, Backlund, Moss and Horak as our centers while Staj sat.

        One possible reason Stajan is still on the ice: Who wants to see a $3.5 million healthy player watching from above?

        • icedawg_42

          “One possible reason Stajan is still on the ice: Who wants to see a $3.5 million healthy player watching from above?”

          Agreed – but this is exactly what the problem has been over the last several seasons, and exactly what this management team has promised not to do.

  • ville de champignons

    Flame was a girl in my hometown I fell in love with as a schoolboy. She looked great, and man was she built! So I joined the crowd of lusty young men lined up outside her house hoping for a chance to see her. When I was older and could afford it we actually started dating. She let me down bad year after year and broke my heart a couple of times but I wanted her so bad I convinced myself that with enough love and support she would change. Friends tried
    to warn me that she had “issues” but I ignored them and defended her honor every chance I got.

    Funny thing is, I recently saw her on a downtown street corner, trying to sell her sagging assets for whatever she could get. No longer beautiful, and far from sexy, she seemed more pathetic than anything. At that moment I realized the truth: All she ever wanted from me was my money. My money! Cheap whore! But I handed her my Visa card and lined up again – along with all the other guys.

    * The idea comes from something I saw a long time ago. Sorry, don’t remember where or when.

  • Vintage Flame

    I too am rather disappointed that the Flames are showing this regression in thinking. I can see them continue to dress Morrison in light of his performance against a brutal team that put forward a pathetic defensive effort, but to bench Horak in favour of Stajan? I don’t understand that.

    Stajan continues to lag behind the play. He doesn’t look engaged enough for my liking, and when he does engage the play, he coughs of the puck. I know I’m probably overly critical of the play of Stajan, but I’ don’t believe it’s unfair.

    It may be by necessity rather design, but this team continues to ice younger players and are being given chances to perform in not the easiest of circumstances. For some reason, Stajan continues to hang on to that last plank of wood on the bench and stay in the lineup. I guess that’s why he’s Matty Franchise?

    • RexLibris

      It’s simple, Stajan is being showcased (when did that word enter the hockey fan’s lexicon?) for the big trade for Lecavalier. (e4) ;p

      I think management decisions like this happen in every organization where the fan base is left shaking their heads asking “why on earth would you play x on a line with y and z?” I remember many media guys here trying not to laugh at Pat Quinn when he had J.F. Jacques start the season on the first line with Hemsky and Horcoff.

      Maybe Feaster is dressing Stajan because, as much as he says he doesn’t want to rebuild, he really wants to pronounce Yakupov’s name at the podium in June?

      I don’t know if you’ve heard much about the Oilers-Hurricanes game last night, but if we play that way again this weekend Flames fans will be talking about a parade route. It was awful.

      • Vintage Flame

        Good Lord in Heaven NO. Even for Eklund that is just terrible. At least Stajan’s contract will be done sooner. Forget Vinny.. Not going anywhere, and even if he did, it would be to Mtl.

        I didn’t catch the Canes Oil game last night, but from what I’ve been hearing on twitter, it was quite the disappointment.

        Possibly the Canes caught the Oil looking a little too soon at Saturday’s game??

        Ooooh how the mighty are falling! 😉

  • Scott

    I think the reason the Stajan is still playing is that, is trade value can’t get any worse unless he is sitting in the press box. They play him in the hopes that he can improve his play and then they can ship him out somewhere.

    Horak is a long term player on this team, I don’t mind him sitting out a game to get a different view of things. Just don’t give him the Backlund treatment and keep him in the presser for 5 games. Thats just stupid.

    • icedawg_42

      “Horak is a long term player on this team, I don’t mind him sitting out a game to get a different view of things. Just don’t give him the Backlund treatment and keep him in the presser for 5 games. Thats just stupid.”

      To me – this rings true – I think this may be more of a development exercise for Horak, than a “Play because of merit” thing for Stajafail (at least I hope that’s what’s going on)

  • RexLibris

    I have no problems with the Flames benching Horak for a single game. Give him a chance to look at things from a fresh perspective. It also reminds him that he needs to continue to earn his way.

    If he gets benched for 4 or 5 games while a subpar Stajan or Morrison gets ice time then I will be concerned. But for now I think the club has earned the benefit of the doubt. They have been benching the vets in favor of the kids so far when it has been appropriate. One game isn’t a regression.

  • Vintage Flame

    So Feaster said he would try and make a move to get Byron back up last week, and that still hasn’t happened. Is that because of the injuries to Giordano and Karlsson which forced the call-ups of Piskula and Irving? Just wondering… been thinking about it for a little bit now.

  • everton fc

    Where do you play Byron? The Comeau pickup hurt Byron. I’d rather have Comeau at LW on the 3rd line than Byron. Who wouldn’t?

    Moss coming back certainly doesn’t help Byron either, even though Moss is still 2 weeks from a regular shift.

    The only way Byron’s recalled is via injury, or if Kosto is waived/traded (which I don’t see, as Kosto is playing his role well). Or if Moss is moved, which I doubt will happen, as Moss seems to energize this team when he’s on the ice. They tend to win when Moss is on the ice, because he goes places no one else seems to have the guts to go, outside Jackman.

    Moss returning puts Stajan or Horak on the fence. Or perhaps Morrison. Morrison is certainly helping his case by scoring. He’s probably good in the room, as well. Stajan is doing neither. Horak is young. He’d be the easiest to re-assign. But I don’t think they’ll send him back to Abby. We’ll know in a few weeks time, me thinks.

    I don’t think Horak goes down. He’s +3. He’s got some points. But you certainly have a log-jam at centre, lines 2-4.

    Does Morrison stay on the 2nd line, or do you put Moss between Tanguay and Bourque? Might be worth a punt. I don’t see Morrison as a 2nd line centre. No one does. Indeed, he is really better suited on the wing, 3rd/4th line. Problem is, we have no room for him in that role. So does Moss slot inside of Tanguay and Bourque? I wouldn’t mind this scenario…

    Backlund seems a nice fit between Comeau and Stempniak. Is Backlund a better fit there than Horak? Perhaps Backlund’s expendable? As part of a trade?? (Hope not, but…)

    So if Moss centres the 2nd line… and Backlund the third… Who centres the fourth? Morrison? Horak?? Stajan???

    And if Moss centres the 4th line, who centres the 2nd? Backlund?? Horak??? (Probably not) Morrison???? (He’s there this evening)

    Again, something’s gotta give. As an aside, I wonder how Comeau would do with Iggy and Jokinen, versus Glencross?

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Moss is not a natural center, and I think if Sutter puts him back out as center, he needs to have his head examined. I really like Moss at RW, I really don’t like him at center. He was getting killed in the role before he got hurt.

      I wonder about an earlier comment about Stajan being showcased. It was odd to me that Stajan was all of a sudden elevated to 2nd line center, too bad he failed miserable against one of the worst teams in the league. There goes that.

    • I don’t think there’s any reason to get Byron back into the NHL at this point. He’s not a guy who is crushing it in the AHL and while he had a few flashes while he was with the Flames, most of the time he was just okay.