With a five game losing skid punctuated by a 9-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, the Calgary Flames look to pick themselves up tonight against the Minnesota Wild (8 pm, CBC and Sportsnet 960). It’s the first Flames home game since December 22nd and it gives the team an opportunity to erase what has been a really ugly stretch. With injuries and callups, it’ll be a new look Calgary team tonight.
Having the expectation to see the Flames angry and fired up for this one is fair, as the team says they’re embarrassed and ashamed of their performance in Boston. Anything less than that would be very, very disappointing tonight and so we’ll see what this beat up group has to offer. With a fresh injury on the blueline, Calgary is getting more and more depleted, making things even more difficult.
The newest member of the Calgary Flames will make his debut tonight, with Blair Jones set to center the third line this evening just a day after being traded. I spoke to him yesterday and Jones says the Flames offer him the opportunity for a fresh start after spending his entire NHL career prior with the Tampa Bay organization. He was drafted by Feaster and coached for two plus years in junior by Sutter.
With Scott Hannan suffering an upper body injury in that debacle Bruins game, the Flames have another defenseman on injured reserve, with Hannan joining Mark Giordano and Derek Smith. The good news this morning had Giordano skating with the main practice group for the first time, so we’ll see how much significance that has. It will be Clay Wilson’s Calgary debut tonight, taking Hannan’s spot on the blueline.
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Lance Bouma-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Blake Comeau-Blair Jones-Paul Byron
Tom Kostopoulos-Roman Horak-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich
Clay Wilson-Anton Babchuk
The other not-so-familiar face in that group is Bouma, who was recalled by the Flames this morning. Brendan Morrison did not skate this morning, so you wonder if there’s something going on there. Looking at those Calgary lines, depth isn’t the word you’d use, as it really drops off as you move further on down. The same can be said about their group on the blueline.
After playing in relief on Thursday night, Miikka Kiprusoff is back to his usual starting role tonight.
For the final time this season, the Minnesota Wild come to Calgary. As we’ve all expected them to do, the Wild have come back down to earth, with just one win over a ten game stretch recently, knocking them from their perch on top of the Western Conference down to the number six seed currently. When you’re allowing the second most shots per game (31.8) and taking the third least shots per game (26.7), things are going to correct themselves eventually.
Devin Setoguchi-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck-Matt Cullen-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Darroll Powe-Kyle Brodziak-Nick Johnson
Colton Gillies-Warren Peter-Casey Wellman
Nick Schultz-Marek Zidlicky
Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser
You can pretty much write off the season for Guillaume Latendresse, who is on the sidelines once again with a concussion, his second of the sesaon. I dare say it, and this is scary, but the Wild may be a deeper team than the Flames right now, which speaks to just how ravaged Calgary’s lineup is. Minnesota has also gotten healthier of late, getting both Koivu and Setoguchi back in the lineup in recent games.
With wins in his last five trips to Calgary, Niklas Backstrom gets the start in net for the Wild tonight. Both he and backup Josh Harding have maintained their impressive even strength save percentage numbers, both sitting at .935. Neither could keep up their ridiculous play through the first months of the season, but the duo is still the biggest reason why Minnesota sits in a top eight spot right now. Backstrom starts tonight.
There was a time when this was a "winnable game" for the Calgary Flames. Well, with the way their lineup is right now, not a lot of those games fall into that category right now. This is a time when you need your best players to pull their weight and see if the rest can follow, because most NHL teams are deeper than Calgary right now.