Just like the rest of the NHL, the Calgary Flames put their pants on one leg at a time. However, when they’ve got their pants on, the Flames just aren’t scoring a lot of goals. Save for a six goal outburst against a dreadful Oilers opponent, Calgary has managed just five regulation goals in their last five games. The good news? They got points in three of those games. The bad news? They’ll need a little more tonight against the red hot Red Wings (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Just a little more production could go a long way for this team right now, as Calgary is getting consistently strong goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff and have also done a nice job of limiting scoring chances in their own end against some pretty good opposition. However, it can be a dangerous game against good teams to try and play it close to the vest at both ends, and one week ago, San Jose was able to outlast that gameplan, skating to a 1-0 win.
Some line changes prior to this one, as we’ll see the duo of Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla reunited for the first time in more than a month. That means Mike Cammalleri will drop off Iginla’s flank, joining the left side on Olli Jokinen’s forward line. It gives the Flames a little closer to two scoring lines, and we’ll see if Tanguay and Iginla can be a little more effective than they’ve been this year. Both Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma return to the lineup after missing one game each with minor injuries.
Alex Tanguay-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Mike Cammalleri-Olli Jokinen-Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma-Blair Jones-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich
A couple quick takes as I was gone on vacation: the Brendan Morrison deal is a good one for the Flames, as he wasn’t in the plans for the future nor was he helping the team right now. Connelly may or may not turn into anything worthwhile, but there’s more of a chance a 25 year old turns into something down the road than a 36 year old. And the team will be sending either Henrik Karlsson or Leland Irving to the American Hockey League in the near future, which is why Joni Ortio was optioned to Finland recently. My gut says Karlsson is the guy going down, even though he has to clear waivers.
Speaking of the good news, bad news game, let’s play that with the Red Wings. The good news? Detroit is coming off a 7-2 loss to Montreal on Wednesday, which some could argue means they’re ripe for another loss. The bad news? Prior to that Habs loss, the Red Wings had reeled off seven straight victories. Thanks to that streak, along with a torrid run that started in November, Detroit has risen to a familiar spot: on top of the overall standings with 67 points.
The Red Wings simply do not lose at home, or at the very least, not very often. They’ve dropped just two regulation games at the Joe Louis Arena this year, one of which came at the hands of the Flames in an impressive showing for the visitors. 20 of their 33 victories of come in Motown, leaving them with a mediocre 13-14 record on the road. One of their 14 losses came at the Saddledome already this season.
Johan Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller-Darren Helm-Dan Cleary
Cory Emmerton-Justin Abdelkader-Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom-Ian White
Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson-Mike Commodore
Datsyuk is still Datsyuk, and while Zetterberg’s possession numbers aren’t as strong as they’ve been in years past, he’s still an ominous option as a "number two" center. The top trio has been together for some time now, and are consistently one of the best positive possession lines in the NHL. Oh, and remember when everyone was wondering "what has happened to Datsyuk"? He’s tied for third in league scoring with 53 points…that’s what.
I know, the staunch stats nerds cringe, but Jimmy Howard is a true Vezina Trophy contender this season. He’s not quite Lundqvist or Thomas (but seriously, who is?), but the Red Wings starter has been as consistently as they come in a good way this season. His save percentage numbers both overall and at even strength are of the heavy hitting variety, marking the first season his win total isn’t almost totally a reflection of the skaters in front of him. Howard will start tonight.
Against a high flying Detroit team playing as well as they have over the past few weeks, one goal in regulation likely isn’t going to cut it for Calgary. That said, putting up a ton isn’t necessarily the most realistic option either. Plain and simple, the Flames need to start generating more when skating five aside if they are to truly stay in the playoff picture. Calgary was a better possession team last year and missed the playoffs, so they need to start making things happen soon.