Those of you scoreboard watching no doubt know the Flames got zero help last night. The Sharks, Avalanche and Kings all won their games, pushing Calgary down to 11th in the conference heading into action today. As I mentioned on Nation Radio yesterday, the primary issue for the Flames down the stretch isn’t necessarily the points between them and 8th; it’s the amount of teams. As things stand, Calgary is just two points out of the playoff picture, but they still have at least three clubs blocking the path.
With 80 points and 10 games left, the Flames have to at least make it to 94 to have any kind of hope of skipping over their various adversaries. That means a record of 7-3-0 or 6-2-2, which is a tall order, but not impossible. The best way to keep hope alive would be to take down the wrost team in the western conference today.
Some new combos today as Sutter looks to change things up after the dismal performance in Edmonton.
Tanguay – Stajan – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Kostopolous
Comeau – Moss – Stempniak
Desbiens – Horak – Nemisz
Hannan – Giordano
Smith – Bouwmeester
Sarich – Babchuk
Today marks the return of Lee Stempniak to the active roster. With his return, Brent has decided to push Moss back into the middle to balance things out. Kostopolous moves up to skate with Jokinen and Glencross which makes me think they may get a more "checking line" role versus Columbus today.
Jackman and Bouma are back skating but weren’t apparently placed on a particular line.
Leland Irving was returned to the AHL yesterday, so we can reasonably expect Kipper to start the rest of the way.
The Blue Jackets played last night in Vancouver (one thing the Flames can’t complain about is B2B’s this year. I can’t remembe the last time they had the benefit of this many tired opponents in a season), so we’ll have to go by the lines they ran versus the Canucks.
Umberger – Brassard – Nash
Prospal – Letestu – Atkinson
Dorsett – Johansen – Gillies
Russel – Boyce – Boll
J. Johnson – Wisniewski
Nikitin – A. Johnson
Lebda – Moore
Not the most intimidating of depth charts. Umberger and Nash are players to worry about and Prospal still has a few miles left in him, but that’s about it. Playing the teenaged Johansen between Dorsett and Gillies is is almost as absurd as Colton Gillies getting regular minutes at the NHL level.
The BJ’s top defense pairing is as one-way as you get when it comes to blueline duos and, yes, that’s former Flame/Oiler Aaron Johnson on Columbus’ second pairing. And apparently Brett Lebda still has a job in the NHL. Who knew.
Steve Mason played last night so Curtis Sanford is in today. Mason is the worst of the two, so that’s unfortunate from a Calgary perspective.
The goal for the Flames at this point has to be to win the rest of their games. If the playoffs is the objective, that must be their mindset for the final 10. Today represents Calgary’s best chance at two points of any contest remaining given the opponent and the situation. They have to take advantage.
The only other match of note today is the Phoenix Coyotes versus the Edmonton Oilers. If the Oil REALLY want to mess up the Flames playoff aspirations, they’ll take a dive against the desert dogs today.