FGD: Five Golden Wins?

Regardless of how they arrived at their fourth straight win on Tuesday night in Columbus, the Calgary Flames did and continued a very impressive month of December in the process.  It was a nice way to start off a six game road trip that continues tonight as the Flames look to keep their season high winning streak going against the lowly New York Islanders (5 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).

Calgary didn’t get a ton of help on the out of town scoreboard on Wednesday night, with a three point game helping the Preds and Wild and points earned by both the Kings and Coyotes.  That said, the Flames certainly aren’t expecting one ounce of help from teams abroad, and as we’ve learned the last two years, neither should Flames fans.  Because that’s just the fact of the matter, why don’t we just focus on what Calgary is doing, which has been pretty good as of late.

The Lineup

While it was at first thought Scott Hannan would come out of the lineup tonight against the Islanders, that doesn’t seem to be as sure a thing now.  With Anton Babchuk ready to return from a broken left hand that has kept him out 22 games, someone would have to come out, and Hannan fit the bill thanks to some nagging injuries.  However, the veteran blueliner seemed to skate fine at morning skate in Nassau County, so that lineup change looks to be a gametime decision now.

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

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

The top line had themselves a pretty mediocre game on Tuesday in Columbus, save for a really nice span in the third period.  But with Iginla scoring the tying goal and the shootout winner, it was kind of all made up for, so much like the rest of that game, it’s best if that whole night is forgotten.  Jarome enters tonight just two goals shy of 500 and I’ve got New Years Day in Nashville as the day it happens.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net tonight and it seems almost a guarantee Leland Irving goes tomorrow in Ottawa.

The Opponent

So the Flames go from playing the worst team in the Western Conference to the worst team out East in this one, as the Islanders sit 11-17-6 with just 28 points and a league worst 77 goals for.  It’s a team that went on quite the second half run last season (including a win in Calgary), leaving many wondering if maybe the team might be ready to really compete for something other than a lottery pick.  Those in that camp have not been vindicated, even if there are some bright spots going forward.

Matt Moulson-John Tavares-P.A. Parenteau
Michael Grabner-Frans Neilsen-Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin-Josh Bailey-Nino Neiderreiter
Tim Wallace-Marty Reasoner-Michael Haley

Mark Streit-Milan Jurcina
Andrew MacDonald-Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton-Mike Mottau

There are some decent faces in New York’s top six, and overall the team has run into some bad luck and probably isn’t as bad as their 15th place standing.  That said, we’re not talking about an Eastern Conference powerhouse either, as the back end certainly drops off a tad after the decent top pairing.  So who are we to watch tonight?

I feel like I must out the man who runs this site, as Kent Wilson has an unusual long distance, one-sided love affair with Frans Nielsen.  Now, I don’t blame him for liking the guy.  Nielsen has consistently been the best possession player on his team in some of the toughest of circumstances, suffering through some awful years on an awful Islanders squad.  That said, the amount Kent talks about him leads me to believe there’s something more.  Mind out of the gutter…but maybe…just maybe…long lost brothers?

While you drink that in, we can look at the top line which has seen the pairing of Moulson and Tavares have some decent stretches this year.  While Tavares has struggled as of late, I think you’re seeing him turn into more and more of an all round player.  Is he there yet?  Nope, not yet, and he may never get to the same level as other first overall picks have gotten.  One thing is VERY clear though…with even a little space in the offensive zone, the guy is deadly.

The saddest storyline about this game is that we won’t see Steady in uniform.  Steve Staios, who signed with the Islanders after a training camp tryout, continues to battle through a concussion along with three other teammates.  Goaltender Al Montoya along with wingers Brian Rolston and David Ullstrom are also battling head injuries while Jay Pandolfo is battling back from a foot injury.

In related news, Rick DiPietro is hurt.  Just 19 more years left on that contract.

Evgeni Nabokov and Anders Nilsson form the current goaltending tandem for the Islanders, with Nabokov currently the number one.  Montoya has been their best tender this year with very respectable totals, especially five-on-five, but as he fights back from a concussion, Nabokov will have to do and he’ll be the man in net tonight.

The Story

While the Islanders are probably a better team than 15th in their conference, the Flames are still a squad that should be able to beat them on most nights if things are done correctly.  Things weren’t done all that correctly last game but the team still won; however, that’s not a script you want to act out all that often, so performances more resembling wins over the Wild or Canucks might be a little more like it.

  • BobB

    Any update on Gio? My brother was saying that he is travelling with the team. That can’t be true?

    I was with the understanding that he’d be out until probably at least mid-late January, and I haven’t heard anything about his second MRI.

  • BobB

    Too often I see Pat leads his posts with Boy Band pics or references…very disturbing!

    I wonder when Bourque will realize he’s not living up to expectations? About as much chance as Garth Snow realizing his “Franchise” goalie is injury prone…or is it considered injury prone if you NEVER completely recover from injuries?

    Isles actually have 2 or 3 guys I wouldn’t mind seeing in Flames uniforms, though I think Moulson would be a better fit on 2nd or 3rd line…but if you play for New York I guess he is a 1st liner.

    I don’t think we’ll be seeing Gio back in the line-up for another couple of weeks…why push it and risk having him go down again?

      • @ Pat

        I’m a hard rockin’ metal head…but back then all the girls liked the boy bands so it was in my best interest to make them an interest.

        But if those guys were your best buds…
        1. You’d have better stories.
        2. Never mind, I looked at the picture again and I don’t want to know the stories. 🙂

        It is sad that I know these boy bands…oh for shame!

  • If they win tonight hope its not just going to be talk about, oh well, it was the just the worst team in the Eastern Conference lalala .. I want to hear “Yay!” Lol – Sure hope its a stronger game, should be, all that turkey should be through their system by now hehe.

    So what kind of fun do you think there’ll be at the Dome for when Iggy comes back with his 500 we expect he’ll pick up on the road?

    Dang, one thing I miss about my days of being able to go to Major League Baseball is so often they gave some nice stuff to the fans, usually first 20,000 heck if they did that at hockey we’d all get some nice free souvenirs – can’t they come up with some nice items from sponsors to celebrate things like this? I did get a cool puck last year for the Canadian Armed Forces game, and not much else. We should all get an Iggy Bobble head, something with the Iggy dance on it or something LOL !

    I think you are right though, Nashville will be his night! Should be some good places to celebrate 🙂

  • RexLibris

    The Isles always seem to be one of those teams where you never know if they’ll show up. You know they are awful, and yet at the end of the year somehow they managed to convince a handful of other teams to lose to them.

    At least Gillies isn’t playing. That will at least make this a hockey game, and not a gong show.

    The Isles look to me like a team that every GM wants to dismantle for spare parts. There are so many good players in different positions that appear to be haphazardly thrown together. Just glancing at their lineup and I can’t help but think about what it would take to get Travis Hamonic or Nino Niederreiter.

  • RKD

    The Flames need to come out attacking, these ‘lowly’ opponents provide fits for the Flames.

    They need to put together a string of good solid periods.

    The Isles sure are disappointing again, they should be much higher in the standings.
    Expectations were very high for a much improved team but it hasn’t translated.

  • ville de champignons

    That picture is a little scary, Pat.

    Just watched a replay of Jarome’s 1st goal last game for the third time. I was amazed by his double-clutch, recovery, and deft little wrister over the goalie. My question (seriously) is can any of you recall a more skillful goal by the captain? Ever? Many have been more dramatic, but more skillful?