FGD: Keep on Giving

The Calgary Flames gave their fans a couple of nice Christmas gifts prior to this weekend, thanks to impressive and well earned wins over the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks. Both teams were on very lengthy runs and both teams are considered among the elite for a reason; both times, the Flames utilized a solid gameplan to skate to regulation victory.  Now they’ve got Columbus, the NHL’s worst team, as Calgary looks for a fourth straight win (5 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).

It’s almost a shame the Christmas break came when it did, because it would have been really nice to see the Flames try and keep things rolling as they set continue their season long seven game stretch away from the Saddledome. Tonight kicks off the "road trip" portion of it, as Calgary starts a grueling span, with this being the first of a three in four. Knowing how the Flames have played of late and knowing how the Blue Jackets have fared recently, there’s really no excuse for a Calgary loss in this one.

The Lineup

Plenty of injury related news coming from the Flames this morning in Columbus, starting with David Moss.  The injured forward had successful surgery on his injured left ankle on Boxing Day and is on the shelf indefinitely, which is just too bad for a guy the team could really use.  That said, at the very least the team has identified the injury and Dave can start the recovery process targeting a return to action.

Alex Tanguay’s status has been updated to week-to-week with an upper body injury as he’s missed the last pair of games with the mystery ailment.  GM Jay Feaster says there’s a chance we’ll see Tanguay back on this six game road trip, but there’s no guarantee in that.  We will see Anton Babchuk prior to the end of the road trip, as he’s close to returning after missing the last 21 games with a broken left hand.

Brett Carson is on the trip and may also play at some point, he remains on injured reserve with an upper body injury while Mark Giordano’s status hasn’t really changed; he remains out indefinitely with his hamstring injury as he continues skating lightly.  Backup goalie Henrik Karlsson has also resumed skating lightly, but is still a ways off from returning.

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Paul Byron-Brendan Morrison-Rene Bourque
Tom Kostopoulos-Roman Horak-Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Derek Smith-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich

Not a whole lot changes from Friday’s win in Vancouver, as the lines and pairings remain the same, and there’s really no reason for them to change.  Leland Irving got his first NHL win in that game and we may see him later this week against either the Islanders or Senators; Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net tonight.

The Opponent

There is not a worse team in all the National Hockey League this season than the Blue Jackets, as Columbus is doing a pretty decent job of imitating the 1992 Ottawa Senators.  The problem with Scott Arniel’s bunch is they shouldn’t be THIS bad.  No one is saying this is a group that should be fighting for points with Detroit or Chicago, but for them to sit 11 games below .500 after Christmas is a little staggering.  The Jackets fell 4-1 to the Blackhawks last night.

Vaclav Prospal-Jeff Carter-Mark Letestu
Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-R.J. Umberger
Antoine Vermette-Sammy Pahlsson-Derek Dorsett
Jared Boll-Derek MacKenzie-Ryan Johansen

Fedor Tyutin-Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot-James Wisniewski
John Moore-Grant Clitsome

We’re not talking about a top notch lineup when studying the above group, but in all honesty, there are teams that do far worse in terms of talent and depth than Columbus.  That said, they are sitting 30th overall for a reason and this seems to be a group that has already written off the year.  The Blue Jackets don’t hold leads very well in the rare occasion they get them, and they don’t score a whole lot either.

There are still some decent pieces on this team, with the top defense pairing seeing a lot of minutes and a lot time inside their own blueline and doing a pretty good job with it.  Nikitin was an acquisition from the surging St. Louis Blues and has proven to be a pretty useful piece on the back end.  Up front, Prospal continues to be a consistent help while the Dorsett-Vermette pairing is still fairly useful.

In net, Steve Mason has been relegated to a position where he has to fight for his starts, as newcomer Curtis Sanford has consistently outperformed the former promising netminder.  While Sanford’s numbers aren’t what you’d call world beating, they aren’t in the horribly awful category like Mason.

The Story

This is one of those must win/just win scenarios for the Calgary Flames.  I don’t really care if they play ugly and win, because it’s two gimme points they need to have if they’re to be fighting for something meaningul into March and April.  The Flames have already thrown away three points against the Jackets, so they best not be doing that again tonight.

  • RKD

    The flames have a history of playing to their opponent rather than playing to their own skill level. As a fan this is irritating. It would be a good sign if they come out ready to play tonight and skate hard for 60 min.

      • It seems to me like the Flames enjoy beating teams that are currently out of their league (Minnesota, Detroit, and Vancouver), yet when they play the bottom feeders such as the Blue Jacket’s and the Islanders, something about playing a team that usually ranks below 25 in league standings irks the Flames.

        Our boys can do better than this. I really hope to see the Stempniak, Comeau, Backlund line continue to produce points and carry possession.

        GO FLAMES GO

  • I fully expect the BJ’s to go on a second half run at some point. As you say Pat their line-up just isn’t bottom of the league bad. If they can get a run of at least semi-decent NHL goaltending they will win a few more than they lose for awhile.

    The season is cooked for them thanks to the bad start, but I’ll be surprised if they end up 15th in the west by the end.

  • RKD

    This is one of those games the Flames absolutely have to win. They’re playing the last-place team in the league, who’s lost 4 in a row AND played last night, it would be very very disappointing for them to lose tonight.

    Also, Pat, do you have any idea what exactly is wrong with Tanguay or how it happened. Really weird injury.

    • Also, Pat, do you have any idea what exactly is wrong with Tanguay or how it happened. Really weird injury.

      There is speculation it came on a blocked shot, but I’m not sure if that’s the case myself, just because it’s an upper body injury.

      This one really is a mystery.

  • RKD

    I hate facing Columbus, they’ve already beaten us twice this season. In one game, Jeff Carter scored two goals.

    It’s like the Blue Jackets are in the Flames head a bit like Vancouver is. Maybe the Flames can somewhat erase that demon against CBJ tonight like they did against Vcr on Thursday.

  • RKD

    I have a tough time placing the blame when the flames loose to bottom feeders. There is a part of me that thinks it’s the coaches job to get the players in the right mindset to play each team. But on the flip side. The players are on the ice not the coach. anyways, I just know it’s been a reoccurring problem for a while. A win tonight will help squash that label but a loss would be Horrible. I’d be willing to say that if they loose tonight then the team hasn’t learned anything at all about what it takes to win and has no chance to make the playoffs.

  • These 1st 3 games can really set us up on this road trip & even though Ottawa have been playing really good this year, a team in a rebuild should be beatable by our team. This week, all 3 games should be winnable. All 3, & add the Vanc gift & that would be starting a road trip at 4-0. How huge would that be. Cant help think these next 3 games will determine the fate of this team. 3 wins & we can be sitting in 6-7th place and oozing with confidence going against critical tough matches.

    If Badger Bob was coaching, the one pre game film he get the boys to watch would be the part of Braveheart where William Wallace gives his speel on the battlefield. “This is their one chance, to fight for freedom(playoffs)”

  • everton fc

    So… is this a playoff team beginning to show signs of cohesion, with enough experience and depth to make a decent run, post-season? Or am I speaking (dreaming?) too soon??

    The Comeau pickup has proven a good one. He fits nicely into Brent’s system. Or so it seems…

    I also like Morrison centering Bourque and Byron. That’s a trio that should be able to get some decent scoring changes. Horak may need to be a fourth liner on this team to get minutes.

    Also, I am glad to see Sarich getting some starts. As for Irving, I think we may be seeing our next #1 goaltender. At least I hope so. He’s done his time for a #1 pick. He seems steady, reliable, emotionally balanced between the pipes…

    Anyone notice Jackman’s -9?