FGD: Regularity

The Calgary Flames won their ninth consecutive game over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, beating a team they usually beat.  Tonight, they look for an eighth straight win over the Edmonton Oilers in round three of this season’s Battle of Alberta (8 pm, CBC and Sportsnet 960).  Last week, the Flames took a 5-3 win at Rexall Place in rather impressive fashion and can win three in a row for the first time this season with a win tonight.

Calgary is playing their best hockey of the season, and it’s good to see it start in early December as opposed to late December like last season.  That said, the Flames haven’t played a ton of tough opponents in this stretch with four of their five wins coming over Nashville, Carolina, Colorado, and Edmonton.  That’s okay with me, however, as taking advantage of your schedule is something the team needs to do this month, as things get a lot more difficult in the new year.

The Lineup

After assigning Roman Horak to the American Hockey League on Friday morning, the Flames had two empty spots on their 23 man roster.  The soon-to-be returning David Moss will fill one of those spots while Greg Nemsiz will fill the other, at least for the time being.  Nemisz was recalled by the Flames today and might very well play his first game with Calgary this season, after putting up his best pro numbers so far this season.

In 26 games with the Abbotsford Heat, Nemisz has seven goals and 18 points putting him third in team scoring behind Jon Rheault and Krys Kolanos, which puts him on pace for his best career finish.  The only way Nemisz plays tonight is if Alex Tanguay is unable to go, as he’s battling the flu and may not be able to play against the Oilers.  He was sent home on Friday from off ice training sessions and will be a gametime decision.  These lines are if Tanguay doesn’t play;  if he does, he’ll slot into his regular spot with Rene Bourque and Brendan Morrison.

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Rene Bourque-Brendan Morrison-Greg Nemisz
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

Bourque had his best game of the season one week ago in that 5-3 win at Rexall Place, and another effort like that would be just fine with Flames fans.  He’s been a little better as of late, and in Calgary’s 5-1-1 span here he’s been pretty good more often than not.  When Bourque is on, he can be a very effective player and can drive his line, and we’ve seen that a little more often which is good news.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net; expect him to start the next two on the road after this as well.

The Opponent

Thanks to their win over the Avalanche last night, the Oilers ensured they’ll remain ahead of the Flames regardless of the result tonight, as Edmonton sits four points up on Calgary entering this one.  That said, the Oilers have had their struggles of late, with losses in five of their last seven, even with yesterday’s 4-1 triumph over the Avs.  A weird scheduling quirk has Edmonton playing the second half of back-to-backs the first three meetings with Calgary this season.

It’ll be another game where Taylor Hall won’t play against the Flames, as the Calgary kid will miss tonight as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury.  The former first overall pick is due back at the end of the month and will be welcomed back by the Oilers, as they’re a different team without him in the lineup.

Sam Gagner-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth-Shaun Horcoff-Ales Hemsky
Ben Eager-Eric Belanger-Ryan Jones
Darcy Hordichuk-Anton Lander-Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid-Tom Gilbert
Ryan Whitney-Jeff Petry
Theo Peckham-Colten Teubert

It’s a pretty beat up Edmonton blueline, as they’re without both Cam Barker and Corey Potter due to injury while Andy Sutton will miss a second game of an indefinite suspension.  He hit Alexei Ponikarovsky of the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night and has a phone hearing today; he’s expected to face a lenghty ban, as this is his second run-in with Brendan Shanahan this season.

Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start in net tonight.

The Story

The Flames have had the success they’ve had against the Oilers and Avalanche because they’re deeper and more physical.  Add on the 100% belief that they’re going to win every single meeting, and it makes for a tough matchup for both opponents.  While both Colorado and Edmonton are due for wins against Calgary, the Flames can’t really be worried about that; if they go out and play their game, they’ll likely come away with the desired result.