FGD: Not So Coyote Ugly

The Phoenix Coyotes may be the hottest team in the NHL, going 8-0-1 over their last nine games, helping them open up a four point playoff cushion.  Now seventh in the conference, the Coyotes roll into Calgary for the first time this season as they get set for their second meeting this season with the Flames (7 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).  A win tonight for Calgary can launch Calgary back into a postseason spot.

Last night, the Flames saw the Colorado Avalanche gain on them with a seemingly easy victory over the LA Kings.  The bad news saw the Avs move closer to Calgary, but on the bright side, the Kings didn’t gain any on the Flames still sitting one point up on them.  Calgary looks to put Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers behind them, and the way they played tha night, it’s not as if that’ll be impossible to do.

The Lineup

There’s no official word as to the playing status of Curtis Glencross and Derek Smith this evening, but with both taking part in three straight practice, there’s a good chance we could see both back in the lineup.  Smith is about right on schedule in his recovery from an ankle injury while Glencross is slightly ahead of schedule after suffering a knee injury in mid-January.  We’ll give you lines with the assumption both are back in.

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

Jay Bouwmeester-Derek Smith
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich

Those blueline pairings are just projected right now.  When they change, we’ll update on here.  If Smith doesn’t play, you can expect Anton Babchuk to return to the lineup after missing the last 13 games as a healthy scratch.  Up front, it’ll be Paul Byron slotting back in if Glencross doesn’t play.

The Opponent

Well, the Coyotes have done what they always do…stay in the playoff race and make life difficult on seemingly every single opponent they play.  The last game they played was a perfect example of what they’re capable of.  Down 3-0 in the first period to the aforementioned Kings, Phoenix made it a one goal game on two seperate occassions before scoring a tying powerplay goal late in the third period.  Not surprisingly, the Coyotes would go on to win the game in a shootout.

It’s the debut of Antoine Vermette in Phoeinx tonight, as the Coyotes acquired the two way center from Columbus in a deal yesterday.  Vermette seems like a perfect fit for the team on the surface, as we know he has scored 20 goals in the past and we also know he’s a pretty decent possession center who can play it at both ends.  Again, at this point, these are just projected lines.

Ray Whitney-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski-Antoine Vermette-Shane Doan
Raffi Torres-Daymond Langkow-Mikkel Boedker
Paul Bissonnette-Boyd Gordon-Alexandre Bolduc

Keith Yandle-Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Michal Roszival
Michael Stone-Chris Summers

Phoenix is without three regular defensemen for the game this evening, with Derek Morris away tending to family issues.  David Schlemko (foot surgery) and Rostislav Klesla (upper body) are also on the shelf, which is why you see the third pairing made up of less than household names.  Stone is a former member of the Calgary Hitmen, however, playing four seasons with the team from 2006 through 2010.  Up front, Brule may slide out of the lineup after taking a hit from Kyle Clifford on Wednesday.

Mike Smith gets the start in net riding the hottest run of his career.  Defying all logic and what we all thought was going to be the case, Smith has proven to be a quality NHL starter this year.  His .933 save percentage at even strength is more than enough to help the Yotes right now, and in fact, he’s stolen a few games for his team this season.

The Story

Calgary won’t catch Phoenix tonight, but they can move within two points of them for seventh in the conference with a win at home.  On top of that, thanks to LA’s loss last night, the Flames would be back in a playoff spot with a victory tonight.  Fact is, no game is more important than any other, but these are the games fans get a little more jacked up for.

  • RKD

    Tonight is a must-win game for Calgary, if they beat Phoenix they will leapfrog LA for eighth in the West and close the gap to two on Phoenix.

    A loss and the Flames would be six points back of the Coyotes and stuck in ninth still a point back of LA.

    Hope Glencross and Smith return tonight, the Flames need all the help they can get.

  • RKD

    Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Lance Bouma
    Krys Kolanos-Roman Horak-Tim Jackman

    I find it hard to distinguish which of these is the third-line and which is the fourth… regardless damn does the lineup look better without Kostopoulos in the top six.

  • What’s the over-under on how long after the game a trade is made if the Flames lose?

    I am seriously conflicted as to whether I want the Flames to push for the playoffs or drop out and go for the higher draft pick. On one hand, playoff time is always fun, and there’s always the possibility that we go on another Cinderella run. On the other hand, if we do go on a playoff run and are out in the first or second round, it reinforces the old opinion that this team is “1 or 2 pieces away” from the Cup. Not good.

    With that in mind, GO FLAMES!

  • AF

    The big guns have to step it up. Our bottom six has been good for the most part given their lack of NHL experience. It’s good to see Glencross and Smith back in the fold.

    Go Flames!

  • Not sure why people keep asserting that the loss to the Oilers was one bad game. Calgary has played terribly for the majority of their last dozen games.

    Without Kipper literally stealing points night in and night out, Calgary would be 10 points back of a playoff spot.

    The only difference 2 nights ago was that the Oil were able to finally beat Kipper.

    • That’s fair, except the Oilers game was another level of stink. I mean, in previous games they were being outchanced by 5-10 a night.

      while the Flames haven’t been playing good hockey for awhile, the game against Edmonton still stands as easily one of the worst games of the season.

      • Vintage Flame

        That I agree with. Pathetic to a whole new level. But my point is that the team is not making a run based on solid team play ala last year. They were riding an incredibly hot goalie. When you collect points in 5 games in a row (or something like that) while only scoring 1 goal a game, management should be re-thinking the whole ‘go for it’ mentality. The future is scary.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    With Vermette going to Phoenix, so many teams in on Carter and consdering what you’d have to give up for Carter (not to mention the risky contract), why don’t the Flames take a stab at Brassard?

    I’m still getting used to the advanced stats terminology -I went to behind the net, but I am not as readily able to interpret those numbers as many of you here are.

    Does anyone know how Brassard is for driving posession numbers – is he worth his 3Mil plus contract?

    If we gave them Stajan, our 1st and a lesser known prospect, such as Nemisz – would you do that deal?

    I’m thinking you would have to make it a 1st to get them to take Stajan’s contract, otherwise a couple of prospects or picks or some combination might otherwise get it done.

    • Does anyone know how Brassard is for driving posession numbers – is he worth his 3Mil plus contract?

      Poorly. And he has his whole career. He is one of the most protected guys in the Blue Jackets this year and his underlying numbers remain mediocre.

      The best thing you can say about Brassard is he’s 24 and might yet improve. He makes $3.2M/year for the next two years after this one, though, so it would be a pricey gamble.

  • Twitter has come alive with new Jeff Carter news. From Bob Mckenzie:

    @TSNBobMcKenzie: LAK and CBJ are working hard to get a Jeff Carter trade done — Jack Johnson’s name featured prominently as well — but told not done. Yet.

    My guess is that Carter will not be coming to the Flames, haha, and neither will Nash. Good to know that whatever jack-assery Feaster had in store hasn’t worked.

    Now, back to the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter talk.

    • everton fc

      Lombardi and Sutter may try and renunite Carter and Richards, since they were pals, hoping their combined production boosts, as a result.

      Not a bad move. May save Lombardi’s job.

      But can either play for Darryl?

      • everton fc

        Or their maturity levels regress to what they were before. Not sure reuniting them is a great idea. If I was LA I’d prefer Nash on the wing I think. He has great character and they need scoring from the wings. Nash would rejuvenate Richards. Cost more to acquire though.

        • everton fc

          Didn’t say I think the mvoe would work for L.A. Meant that it makes sense for Lombardi. Under pressure/no goals.

          But I can’t disagree w/your point. Makes sense.