FGD: And Then There Were Nine

A nine day break follows Calgary’s final preseason game tonight, as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes, hoping to finish their exhibition schedule with a bang (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960).  It’s a ‘Yotes lineup with plenty of NHL experience, so this will be one of the better evaluating opportunities the team has had to this point.  They also want to put forth a solid effort heading into an extended break prior to their regular season opener.

The Lineup

It’s now official, Jarome Iginla will not play a preseason game this year for the Flames.  The good news is, the captain did skate on his own for 20 minutes or so today, which is the first time he’s skated since the first training camp session two weeks ago.  There’s still no word on when Iginla will be ready to return to full practices, but the hope is he’ll be ready to start the regular season.

It’s another look for Roman Horak and Paul Byron, along with Lance Bouma; all three guys are hoping to crack the opening day lineup if injury situations play in, or if there is merit for them to be playing.  I’m not sure there is going to be an open spot, but I did find it interesting hearing from Brent Sutter this morning when asked about the play of Niklas Hagman.  Sutter said Hagman had been good, but said there is nothing set in terms of their opening day lineup…I’m likely reading between the lines but I did find it interesting.

Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Niklas Hagman-Mikael Backlund-Lance Bouma
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Guillaume Desbiens

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Anton Babchuk
Cory Sarich-Derek Smith

It’s Sarich’s first preseason game, and this is obviously something he’s pretty jacked up about.  I believe Sarich is a top six defender on this team, and I think he’s a better option than guys like Smith or Jordan Henry.  Speaking of Henry, he won’t play for a second straight game, which begs the question: why?  Is it because they like him enough and don’t need to see anymore?  Or is it because he likely won’t be on the opening day roster?  The Flames haven’t said anything, but a few I’ve talked to have suggested that the team really likes Smith.

Miikka Kiprusoff goes the whole way and gets the start in net tonight.

The Opponent

The Coyotes are certainly a much better test than Tuesday’s opponent in the New York Islanders.  They’ll ice a fairly veteran lineup tonight featuring players with good NHL experience.  We can tell you Daymond Langkow will not play against his former team, which is a little too bad, as it would have been nice to see him go.

Ray Whitney-Lauri Korpikoski-Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt-Martin Hanzal-Patrick O’Sullivan
Raffi Torres-Boyd Gordon-Brett MacLean
Paul Bissonnette-Kyle Chipchura-Mikkel Boedker

Adrian Aucoin-Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Rostislav Klesla-Michal Roszival
Keith Yandle-David Schlemko

Jason LaBarbera gets the start in net, and he’s likely to go the whole way.  Goaltending is the one issue many question about this edition of the Coyotes, as LaBarbera will likely be pairied with Mike Smith in between the pipes this year.  The players on the skating roster are solid, but that’s not a tandem I’d want to go to battle with.

The Story

While Iginla was the story here at the ‘Dome, the story of the game is what type of effort the Flames bring.  With a long, nine day break coming up, they’re going to have to put forward a pretty good effort and I think it’s important to set the tone prior to that downtime.

  • everton fc

    Observations/Random Rants:

    No mention of Byron the wing? He really is getting one final look with somewhat skilled players. Also interesting to see Bouma getting the 3rd line wing w/Backlund and Hagman, perhaps to see what he can do with more skilled linemates.

    Interesting to see Stempniak on the LW this evening. Not sure it means much… Not sure he is on the LW just because you have him visually slotted there above. Same with Desbiens – seems you are saying he’s on the left side this evening. He’s generally on the right side. Is there an opening on the left-side of that fourth line? Does Desbiens have a chance?

    Stajan bumped to the 4th line again – is this a sign of things to come next week? And Kosto really could be on the bubble, as Kent pointed out here earlier in the week. Moving him to the right-side. Jackman’s side. Will Jackman be ready for the opener?

    With regards to Hagman – I said this yesterday; where does he fit? The only place I see him fitting in on the 4th line, on the LW. Which isn’t good for Kosto. Or Hagman, really.

    Smith vs. Henry – to me, the difference is offence. Smith provides potentially more than Henry. If Babchuk is not paired w/Sarich, you’d assume the #7 d-man would have to be, and have some offencive skills to compliment the stay-at-home Sarich. Liking Cory in the #5 role. I think he’ll do well there, if he stays healthy. Perhaps the organization is higher on Smith than Babchuk at the moment? Has Smith outplayed Babchuk. Some would argue “yes”… Indeed…

    Finally… Horak’s been playing a lot of first line minutes this camp. And he’s been playing them w/Tanguay. Is Backlund assured that #1 centre spot? Is Backlund practicing w/Tanguay? Could the four centres we see tonight, be the four centres we see opening night, and in the same order as listed above? Or am I reaching here??

  • Didn’t know where to put this but…

    http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=377042

    Looks like Kotalik didn’t report to Buffalo’s AHL affiliate and discussions are being held to send him to Europe.

    My only question here is, WTF? Why didn’t he do that when he was shipped to the Heat? I would have much preferred we ship him to Europe rather than having to sacrifice more to dump his ass. Is he only just NOW understanding that he’s done in the NHL, or did he think he had a shot at making the Sabres’ roster?

    Anyhoo, go Flames!

    • If he doesn’t report, he risks forfeiting his salary. I think this being his second demotion with a second club signals his time is over in the NHL, so the writing is on the wall. In CGY he probably had the vain hope that he could revive his career.

    • Super_Gio

      Oh man see what you’ve started?! Haha Sorry I should have clarified I wasn’t calling you crazy, I was just thinking that the idea was crazy.
      I’ll be keeping an eye on Horak/Bouma and Smith tonight I reckon.

  • Super_Gio

    Smith? Really? Are you crazy? My goodness I hope that’s not true. From what I’ve seen I thought Henry was far superior and made way less mistakes. I would even go as far to say Henry has played better then Babchuk.

    • He can skate and I’ve seen him weave his way through coverage now and then. He scored a bunch of points in the AHL the last two seasons so there’s something there.

      The decision making in the defensive zone has been mostly what I’ve noticed of Smith though.

    • There is not a more negative commenter than you man; Smith actually played well against the Islanders. He does have tools…he’s a good skater, and has better offensive instincts than Henry.

      Who stays doesn’t really matter, as they likely won’t play; I like Henry better myself, but the coaching staff looks at more than just game action, which is all you’ve seen. Smith has looked strong in practice for a good majority.

        • GermanFlame

          I gotta agree, lets be realistic, if the Organization is evaluating these guys and is putting Smith that far ahead of Henry, it shows as to what the Org now values. And apparently they are now valuing defenders that can “play” in the offensive zone but look lost in the defensive zone. Even against the most marginal of talent that Smith has had to play against he looks bad to terrible in the defensive zone, imagine what he’s gonna look like against real NHLers.

          Having Smith or Henry as your 7th guy doesn’t really matter other than who’s getting paid more. But for example, say Sarich doesn’t play the opener, are we really gonna think that having Smith and Babchuk as a pairing is a good idea, how does this organization think thats a good idea? You better hope that whatever forwards they are on the ice with are able to keep the puck and have possesion of it in the offensive zone, cause so help this team if it ends up in our zone.

          Course, the Flames could end up keeping both of them up and depending on who gets injured or plays terrible, either one of them can slot in. Henry to replace an actual defencemen and Smith to replace Babchuk.

  • but more to do with the team liking Smith a lot.

    I hope that’s not true. Smith has some tools, but has looked just absolutely lost in his own end. TJ Brodie never made the sort of errors I’ve seen from Smith and we’re talking pre-season games against nobodies. It’s not like he’s lit it up at the other end either.