FGD: Royal Challenge

It was just five days ago when we saw Darryl Sutter’s LA Kings come in and snap a winning streak, taking a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.  Now with seven points seperating them in the Western Conference, the Flames hope to close the gap tonight when they continue a three game roadtrip at the Staples Center (8:30 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).

Calgary played a pretty decent games all things considered Tuesday night in San Jose, doing a fairly nice job limiting the powerhouse Sharks.  That blueprint of frustrating high end opponents is as good a one the Flames are going to be able to execute, and with a red hot Kings team tonight, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to do again.  While LA might be out of reach in terms of catching them, Calgary needs two points against whoever the opponent is.

The Lineup

No Curtis Glencross tonight for the Flames, as he’s back in Calgary having his knee injury evaluated.  Head Coach Brent Sutter hinted at his injury being "week-to-week" as opposed to "day-to-day", which obviously ins’t good for a desperate Calgary team.  For my money, Glencross has been the best skater on this team since day one, with Olli Jokinen right there along with him.  I’m not sure how the Flames are going to compensate for this one.

It sounds like Matt Stajan will return to the lineup tonight after missing 14 games with a lower body injury suffered in Chicago on December 18th.  These are now the lines as it looks like the Flames will go with seven defensemen and 11 forwards once again.  Roman Horak and Paul Byron will be the healthy scratches.

Mike Cammalleri-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau-Olli Jokinen-Tim Jackman
Tom Kostopoulos-Blair Jones-Lee Stempniak
Lance Bouma-Matt Stajan

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net.

The Opponent

We did a nice write-up on Darryl Sutter’s Kings prior to Saturday’s meeting in Calgary, so it would be a little redundant to go too far in depth on them again.  Fact is, LA is playing their best hockey of the season and they sit 8-1-5 since Darryl took over behind the bench.  Their latest win came over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, an impressive 3-2 shootout win over one of the top squads in the Western Conference.

Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dustin Penner-Mike Richards-Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson-Andrei Loktionov-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Trent Hunter

Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson-Matt Greene

Sounds like Jonathan Quick will get the start in net tonight, although there’s a chance it might be Jonathan Bernier as Quick has been a workhorse as of late.  Again, we’ll confirm when more is known.

The Story

The story really doesn’t change for the Flames at this point; they got some good news last night as the Coyotes got crushed by Anaheim, however the bad news saw Colorado come from behind to beat the Florida Panthers in overtime last night.  Once again, relying on help from the outside isn’t really a smart move at this point, so it’s all on the Calgary to scratch and claw for as many points as they can possibly find.

  • Parallex

    If he’s healthy I think I’d rather Horak play in lieu of Byron. Byron just never impresses me. Nice wheels but that’s about all he’s got going for him.

    Glad to have someone back, even if it is just Stajan.

    Any updates on Tanguay? More specifically his hopeful date of return. Seriously, without him and GlenX the forward depth looks really weak.

  • ville de champignons

    Off-topic but in listening to Canadiens call-in show about 70% of callers and both hosts seem to think that Gauthier got screwed by Feaster. They are also beginning to debate the “blow-it-up” or “overhaul” options, in both official languages.

    • RexLibris

      The Problem in Montreal is that they can’t really move out the contracts that would help to rebuild the team in Gomez, Cole and Gionta.

      That being said, they are, technically, in a good place to do a very quick little rejuvenation. They could move a few players this year and grab a high pick, commit to drafting high next year in the hopes of snagging one of the highly-touted centres eligible for 2013, and then perhaps even move a player with attitude issues like Subban for more help. Their organization already has a decent degree of defensive prospects in players like Tinordo, Emelin and Beaulieu and Price is still very young.

      Montreal does have an opportunity there to correct some systemic problems, but I highly doubt that Gauthier will take full advantage. It’s a shame, because I think, in spite of their mercurial nature, Habs fans actually could stomach something like this.

      • ville de champignons

        “It’s a shame, because I think, in spite of their mercurial nature, Habs fans actually could stomach something like this.”

        Rex, are you implying that Habs fans would stomach a situation such as the Oilers are in? If so, I just can’t see that happening. They will burn down Le Centre Bell rather than suffer that kind of humiliation.;)

        @Kevin R

        Agreed, and this is why I think the Cammi trade is a clear win for the Flames. More skill, more options. I hope to see Cammelerri as a transitional core player for all the reasons you mentioned. That suggested line is a little scarey though, in that there isn’t much size to go along with the potential skill and speed.

        • Yeah I know they may get pushed around, probably why we try to acquire a kid like Kassian. But still, if they play great & draw penalties, that would be fun to watch.

          Yeah I agree, no way a fan base like Montreal would tolerate the last 3-4 years Oiler style. Vancouver riots would look like a City just having a good time ala Woodstock. Management & Owners of the Canadiens would need 24hr Police protection & body guards & hope none of them are hockey fans.

          • RexLibris

            and for ville de champignons:

            I don’t think Canadiens fans would be willing to go through an entire rebuild from the ground up, but like I said, they already have the goaltender and some defensive prospects. It’s my contention that if the Habs were to engage in an abbreviated two-year drought in order to stock up their prospect pool and acquire through the draft some higher-end pieces necessary, that I believe that fan base is informed enough about hockey to at least give it a shot.

            The Canadiens have enough moral support in that community that they don’t have to worry about making ends meet. The fans will follow them through hell and back again. If the Canadiens were to say to the fan base that they are changing GMs, changing coaches, and going to use this year and next to try and draft high-end prospects at the top of the draft order, I think the general populace would extinguish the torches long enough to give it a short try.

            Like I said, they don’t need to find a new prospect for every single position, which is what a lot of the other, more major rebuilds did.

            Also, my guess is that the management and owners of Les Habitants are already perilously close to needing protection (although I’m not sure I’d even trust the police) with the way things are currently going.

    • Personally, I think Gauthier broke the long running Cliff Fletcher rule by not trading a big piece of your team based on emotional knee jerk reaction. Cammi trade has parallels to what DSutter did with Phaneuf & as much as you try to rationalize the return you got was OK, deep down you know you could have gotten way more if the GM took their time & properly worked a deal. But that takes time. I know Cammi makes us a better team. There are many who want a lottery pick & tank for a rebuild, but, anytime you can clearly win a deal, you do it. Wouldnt it be neat if Backlund & a kid like Baertche form a great chemistry with Cammi to form a future #1 line. Who knows.

  • It’s going to be very instructive to see how Jokinen does without Glencross. Im sure everyone can agree Jokinen’s stock began to rise pretty much as soon as he was joined to Curtis’ hip. Now we’ll get to see just how much of that Olli was driving (or not).

    • ville de champignons

      I looked at our second line of:

      Blake Comeau-Olli Jokinen-Tim Jackman

      And threw up in my mouth a little.


      If those are Olli’s linemates, I don’t think it will be fair to judge him at all as driving the bus or not. I mean, Jackman in the top six?

      And people wonder why we don’t shelter the top line more – because this is the alternative!

      • True, but I don’t anticipate that will last long. I assume Stempniak or Tanguay when healthy or even Cammalleri will join him eventually.

        Of course, we should also note that Glencross/Jokinen were getting beat up most nights in terms of possession this year anyways. Without Glencross’ career high 23% SH%, things probably would have gotten ugly already.

    • Parallex

      Sigh… why.

      Why would any right thinking person roll with those lines? Those lines (with the exception of the 1st) make me want to see Butter fired immediately.

      Why does Tim Jackman warrant a second line winger slot?

      Why does Lee Stempniak who has some skill at putting the puck in the net not play with other more skilled teammates?

      Why are Horak and Byron eating up cap space and a roster slot when the current coaching staff (by which I mean Butter) when faced with the option of “play those guys or nobody” elects to play nobody? It’s a waste pure and simple.

      Seriously… Feaster I don’t care how much you like the guy, Fire Butter’s ass pronto.

  • ville de champignons

    I never thought the time would come when I would be happy to see Matt Stajan back in the lineup. Well, I guess that day has come. Here’s hoping he can score in his first game the back!

  • ville de champignons

    Why wouldn’t they put Stempniak with Jokinen and Comeau? Seems a little bizzare that Jackman would be the one up there. I love Jackman, but still? Better than Stempniak? No

  • ville de champignons

    Okay. So my question is, Which team, Montreal or Calgary is better poised to become a legitimate playoff threat, who does it first, and why? I see a lot of parallels between these two teams (in a macro view).

  • RexLibris


    And I wouldn’t have ever dared compare the current situation in Montreal to Calgary.

    Gauthier doesn’t seem to know which direction to face in the bathroom right now, nevermind which direction to turn his club towards. Feaster, for all his warts, at least has a clear direction and, at least from all appearances, a relatively free hand to pursue a winning record immediately.

    The Stajan contract may be bad, but compared to the disgusting mess that is the Gomez, Gionta, Cole, Kaberle contracts, the Flames are nowhere near as cap-constrained.

    As I said somewhere else on FN today (I can’t remember where), the Flames are trending upwards (generally) while the teams with whom they are in contention are mostly trending down or treading water. The same may happen for the Canadiens, but I think the competition is tougher for those last few spots. The best thing that could happen for the Canadiens this year is for Price to get injured and Subban to demand a trade. Then they might be forced to see what they really have on that team.

  • wawful

    Canadiens fans are some of the most impatient in the entire league. They’ve had six different coaches since the lockout! Six! Cunneyworth will be lucky to make it to the end of the season and Gauthier isn’t exactly safe either, especially if he starts a deliberate rebuild. I’d say that Calgary fans are way more forgiving, especially with Edmonton as a nearby example of how bad things could get.