A week ago this game was all about the Jets return to Calgary. Now, for Flames fans at least, the feature is the debut of the most anticipated prospect ’round these parts since Dion Phaneuf – 19-year old Sven Baerstchi.
Selected 13th overall by Calgary last June, we’ve charted Baertschi’s mind-blowing season here at FN throughout the year, including periodic updates on his progress as well as look a list of comparables. The news have been consistently good, which explains why Flames fans are so charged to see him in action tonight.
Oh yeah, and there’s the new look Winnipeg Jets and that whole race for the playoffs thing too.
Jarome hasn’t been practicing the last couple of days due to a cut on his ankle. It shouldn’t keep him out of the lineup tonight though.
Tanguay – Stajan – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Baertschi – Nemisz – Kosotpolous
Kolanos – Horak – Desbiens
Giordano – Hannan
Smith – Bouwmeester
Brodie – Sarich
SVEN will start on a unit with Nemisz and Kostopolous. That’s right – Greg Nemisz is currently the Flames third line center (even though he mostly plays wing). When they say Baertschi’s recall was on an emergency basis, they aren’t kidding.
Kipper to go in net.
It’s been an up-and-down return to the NHL for the new look Winnipeg Jets. In part because of the volatile standings in the SE division. Thanks to the Captials precipitous drop from the top, the SE has once again become the worst division in hockey – meaning the SE division leader gets automaitcally elevated to third in conference…while everyone else drops below the post-season cut-off. As a result, it’s possible to go from 3rd in the East to 8th in a single day if you’re the Jets, Capitals or Panthers.
Ladd – Little – Wheeler
Kane – Burmistrov – Wellwood
Glass – Slater – Coburn
Stapleton – Antropov – Miettinen
Byfuglien – Enstrom
Hainsey – Clitsome
Jones – Stuart
Blake Wheeler struggled through some tough percentages to start the season, including a 5% personal shooting percentage. Things have turned around for the big winger in the second half though and he currently leads the Jets in points with 55 in 66 games. It took Wheeler a while to really hit his stride in the NHL, but he has looked legit this season by eye. He’s very fast despite his big frame and can control the puck. He, Ladd and Kane are guys the Flames will have to fear this evening.
Of note is how Claude Noel uses his third line: the trio of Slater, Coburn and Glass is a straight-up shut down unit, facing the other team’s best lines and starting way more in the defensive zone. That frees up both scoring units to do a bit more damage. Slater in particular gets absolutely buried with a o-zone start ratio of just 28.5%. For contrast, the lowest zone start amongst regular Flames forwards is 43.4% (Tom Kostopolous).
Ondrej Pavalec should be the starter.
Although expectations for the teenaged Baertschi in his first NHL game should be tempered, it will nevertheless be very interesting to see how he manages against the big boys after tearing up the WHL this year. Add in the Jets back in the Dome for the first time in decades and a pressing playoff battle for both clubs and you have what might be the most compelling Flames game storyline in the last couple of years.