FGD: Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiired

The Calgary Flames return home tonight after a 1-0-2 road trip through the Pacific Division; they’ll play their fourth game in six nights against the red hot Vancouver Canucks (8 pm, CBC and Sportsnet 960).  Entering action two points back of the final West playoff spot, the Flames also sit 12th in the Conference with 27 games remaining this season.  Hopefully a busy week of hockey doesn’t play a factor in tonight’s meeting for Calgary.

The last time Calgary played Vancouver, it was one of their better efforts of the season, as the Flames came away with a 3-1 victory at Rogers Arena.  Calgary has scored wins over high end opponents this year, with two against the Red Wings, a pair against the Blackhawks and singles over the Blues to go along with that December 23rd performance in Vancouver.

The Lineup

More bad news for the Calgary Flames, as they’ve seemingly lost Blair Jones for the near future after the newly acquired center injured his ankle blocking a shot against the Coyotes on Thursday night.  As a result, it’s the return of Roman Horak to the team after being recalled from the Abbotsford Heat late on Friday.  That leaves Calgary with quite the, um, interesting group of centermen heading into action against an elite opponent.

Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Mike Cammalleri-Mikael Backlund-Blake Comeau
Krys Kolanos-Roman Horak-Lance Bouma
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman

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

The loss of Jones is an interesting one, as he had been deployed in a checking-centric role over the last couple weeks, allowing Brent Sutter to free up the Jokinen trio for softer matchups and more frequent offensive starts.  We’ll see if Backlund is used in a similar role tonight, or if Sutter decides to roll four lines in a more conventional way.  Either or, the situation isn’t pretty, with names like Moss, Glencross, and Stempniak still at least a few weeks away from returning.

Leland Irving did very well in net on Thursday night, and he also did well to give Miikka Kiprusoff a well deserved rest.  It’ll be the 300 game winner back between the pipes tonight for the Flames.

The Opponent

Well, if you ask the Vancouver Canucks, they’ll say they’re happy with the results, but not neccesarily the way they’ve played over the last two weeks or so.  The defending Western Conference champs are 6-0-1 over their last seven contests, including an impressive 5-2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.  Talking to Ryan Kesler on Friday afternoon, the feeling is the team is capable of more than what they’ve shown of late, even though they have points in seven straight.

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Byron Bitz
Alex Burrows-Ryan Kesler-David Booth
Mason Raymond-Manny Malhotra-Jannik Hansen
Maxim Lapierre-Cody Hodgson-Mike Duco

Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler-Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts-Aaron Rome

The story gets old when writing about the utilization of certain players by Head Coach Alain Vigneault, but it almost needs to be said each and every time, because it seemingly gets more extreme every time you look at it.  Manny Malhotra starts in his own zone 87.9% of the time (!!) and is still only -10 on the season, something that takes his number from last year and cuts it in half.  In fact, our Justin Azevedo calculated a grand total of one (ONE) offensive start in the month of January for Malhotra.  Vigneault throws dirt on his bottom six and allows his top three the highest of the high ground, which is the true definition of putting players in a spot to succeed.

Roberto Luongo seemingly does nothing but win against the Calgary Flames, which is kind of the overall way this matchup has gone that last two plus years.  The Canucks are 10-1-2 in their last 13 with the Flames including six straight victories at the Scotiabank Saddledome; Luongo has been in net for a good number of those wins.

The Story

It’s one of Calgary’s top rivals, so the game has some meaning and buzz regardless.  But two factors make this one even more intriguing for me.  First, the Flames are in a tooth and nail playoff race, falling position once again on Friday night thanks to points earned by Dallas and Colorado on the out of town scoreboard.  Second, the last time these two teams met, it was the Flames earning a rare regulation victory; I’ll be very intrigued to see how both teams use that as motivation for tonight’s affair.

  • Something bizarre has happened to the Canucks the last month or so. They are getting routinely outshot and their possession numbers have taken a nose-dive. They’re winning right now because of Luongo and extra time.

    I have no idea why the Canucks are suddenly the Minnesota Wild, but Flames can only hope it keeps up.

    • RexLibris

      Given that many teams will fluctuate during a season perhaps this is a minor variation from their usual path that will sort itself out between now and the end of March.

      My hope is that they run out of steam and exit from the playoffs early.

      I don’t know that a hot Luongo is the best matchup for an anemic Flames offense, but one can always hope.

  • xis10ce

    Let’s hope Cammy and Backs spark one another. Macfarlane is now up in Cammys grill. I’d love the 2nd line to have a steller night and help shut up Macfarlane and Walker simultaniously.

    EDIT: Macfarlane wrote the article, not Sportak, sorry

  • The loss of Blair Jones seems to increase the chances of Feaster trading the farm for Jeff Carter. Although, we don’t really have anything left to trade…

    I was at the Avs/Canucks game last Saturday, and the Canucks really didn’t play all that well. They scored on their first shot in the first few minutes, then didn’t tie up the game until the last couple seconds and won in a shootout. If the Flames can put the boots to them early and not fall prey to a shell once in the lead, I think we can win.

    Also, one of the Sedin’s has a busted ankle. Hit him as often as possible – nothing cheap, but make him sorry for showing up less than 100%.

      • They need to take it to him then. Like I said, no cheap shots, just good clean hits that put the fear of whatever Nordic god they worship into him.

        What is the deal with Moss anyway? He’s been hurt for so long I forget that he’s on the Flames at times. He just keeps getting injured, so I can see him being an add-in to some crazy deal that Feaster makes for Carter.

        I can only hope that Feaster was the one GM that low-balled Columbus. Something like Moss and a 2nd rounder for Carter. As opposed to Baertschi, Backlund, Moss, and all our first rounders for the next decade for Carter.

  • RKD

    According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Blair Jones will be out of the lineup for six weeks.

    Terrible time for injuries, I hope the Flames come out with the same effort they had on this road trip tonight against the Canucks.

    Please let it be a 3-1 win by the Flames, I was getting tired of those 5-1 beatings.

    I still think the Flames are a better team now than earlier in the season. The inconsistency problem probably won’t go away but they look to be playing with more heart down the stretch drive.

    I can’t see them trading Jokinen with Moss, Glencross, Stempniak and now Jones out. All hands on deck are needed.

  • Here’s the playoff situation for tonight:

    If everything goes right for the Flames, i.e Colorado, Minnesota and Phoenix all losing, then Calgary can move into a tie for 8th with Phoenix. That is assuming of course that Phoenix loses in regulation, as 1 point would keep them ahead of CGY.

    Also, should we consider Chicago as a team Calgary could catch? Looking at the standings right now, the Flames are 7 pts back with the same amount of games played. Chicago is stinking right now, 7 losses in a row and still another 4 games left on their roadie. It’s a longshot for sure, but I question Chicago’s depth on both offence and defence, and their goaltending is very, very suspect. If their top guys play like they’ve been playing as of late, they’re in trouble.

  • everton fc

    Hindsight being 20/20… Would have been perfect if the Sharks had waived Andrew Murray now, instead of last week.

    We are so thin. Our third line was an AHL most of this season. And Chris Butler is on our first pairing defencively…

    Does our starting lineup not resemble and expansion squad? If Brent gets this stable of also-rans into the playoffs, he should be re-signed, even if I’d prefer we sign someone else.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Wouldn’t have mattered. The Kolanos contract takes the Flames to the 50 contract limit; they can’t do anything off waivers unless they get rid of someone.

  • everton fc

    How much does it suck that GlennX, Moss, Stemp and Jones are all out. All of them are great depth guys and from what I remember seeing good possession/corsi guys. And all of them are known capable NHLers that can handle good tough 5 on 5 minutes. I think with them in the lineup would should easily be a playoff team right now. WIthout them we are giving minutes to guys who are just not able to fill in at the current time, they need more time in the AHL.

    The WORST part about having all the guys minus GlennX out as well is that it will be really hard to trade them if we really falter down the stretch. All those guys could warrant a few good picks or maybe a prospect or two coming back, especially with the way jones was playing for us.

  • the forgotten man

    Wow, that 1 goal and 2 assists that Jones has brought to the table over the last 13 games is a season killer…who cares.

    Losing Glencross hurts…he actually produces points as a forward.

    The only guy the Flames can’t afford to lose is Kipper…he is the only reason at all that the Flames have a sniff at the playoffs. Actually considering how pathetic our top 6 forwards have been as a whole all season and that we have iced a Swiss cheese defense most of the year, along with a Butter’s non-coaching approach… Kipper should win the Vezina And the Hart trophy this year. I can’t think of a single player who has been more critical to a team’s relative success this year…the flames are a one trick pony but Kipper is at least playing like one hell of a stallion!!

    • everton fc

      Cant measure everything in goals & assists. Jones was playing a role of getting under the skin of star players like Thornton. That draws penalties & disrupts the other teams focus of just shutting down Iginla & Tanguay. We havent had any player step up & be hated by other teams & their fans since Phaneuf was traded. His injury is more than you think.

    • everton fc

      It’s not a season killer but it’s the whole picture, he was contributing, maybe not a whole lot of points, but as of late he was really starting to turn into a defensive presence. Those four guys I’ve mentioned are all good depth guys. Instead of them we have Kolanos, Bouma, Stajan and Kosto. I think this team would be in a MUCH better position with the four I’ve mentioned then those four.

      As for Kipper should win the Vezina, he’s not even top 5 ANYTHING. Yeah he’s been really good for the Flames but lets not act like he has the entire team on his shoulders and if he even stumbles this team is going straight down hill. He’s doing what he’s suppose to be doing, providing the team with good goaltending instead of being the weak link(as some articles I believe I’ve read here have indicated the past two seasons).

  • Franko J

    Who will be the next Flame injured?

    With all the injuries this will really test the Flames depth if the previous injuries haven’t yet.
    Too bad Jones was injured, it appeared that he was a spark for the team.
    Right now all teams are keying on shutting down Iginla and Jokinen and with that the Flames struggle mightily not only to score goals but even create scoring chances.

    Now it is up to Cammalleri and Backlund to step up their game.

    Starting tonight, the next seven games prior to the trade deadline will test the mettle of the players on this team and indicate to Feaster and company who are worth keeping and who are not (trading).
    Win or lose, I want to see which players are willing to give it an honest effort when the pressure is on. I know Jones did and eventhough he was injured on the play I know going forward he is one player which you can rally around for his effort.