They call Toronto the Big Smoke for whatever reason, and the Maple Leafs will blow through Calgary tonight for their second of two meetings this season with the Calgary Flames (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960). It’s not like Toronto is on fire however, entering action tonight with losses in their last three games while the Flames look to continue a five game point streak.
Some decent news for Calgary came on Monday night, I guess. Instead of getting two points, the Phoenix Coyotes just got one, ensuring that Calgary will not be moving into a playoff spot regardless of result against Toronto. Somehow the Flames are getting wins and points, and somehow is really the best way I can describe it. With their lineup right now, I don’t know how, but they’re doing it and it’s keeping them in this thing.
Another day, another injury for the Calgary Flames who will be without Mikael Backlund four to six weeks. That makes it two centers injured in consecutive games, with Blair Jones getting injured on Thursday before Backlund’s upper body ailment was suffered on Saturday. Calgary’s group of centers right now is tough to be confident in, although moving Mike Cammalleri to the middle is something that might help in that regard.
Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos-Mike Cammalleri-Blake Comeau
Krys Kolanos-Roman Horak-Lance Bouma
Paul Byron-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich
The good news surrounds the blueline, as they’re fairly healthy right now with an impending return of Derek Smith next month. Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net tonight.
Thanks to a Washington loss to San Jose on Monday night, the Maple Leafs remain the eighth place team in the Eastern Conference, a spot which is right around where they should probably sit. Their early season results that had them near the top of the conference was far too lofty a target to stay on pace for. The two largest questions surrounding this team now surround the future of a few certain players and if the goaltending situation is going to solidify.
On the trade front, it seems like GM Brian Burke is chasing a top six forward to compliment his two big guns in Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. With the offensive struggles of Nikolai Kulemin a year after a 30 goal season are helping fuel that speculation, and a decently deep blueline lead many to believe he’ll deal from a position of strength. As for goaltending, neither James Reimer nor Jonas Gustavsson have been consistent enough for Head Coach Ron Wilson. Reimer is the better option, and his .929 even strength save percentage speaks to that, but the feeling is consistency is the biggest issue with both tenders. It sounds like Gustavsson gets the start tonight.
Joffrey Lupul-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski-Tim Connolly
Joey Crabb-Matthew Lombardi-Nikolai Kulemin
Darryl Boyce-David Steckel-Mike Brown/Colby Armstrong
Dion Phaneuf-Mike Komisarek
John-Michael Liles-Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner-Luke Schenn
Komisarek slots in in place of Carl Gunnarsson, who will miss at least a week with a lower body injury suffered yesterday at practice. Keith Aulie, a former Flames pick, was recalled but looks not to play tonight. Those pairings may change. If the rumors surrounding Grabovski being on the trade market are true, it’s kind of dumb, because he’s still the best center on the team.
The largest storyline for me has nothing to do with the matchup tonight whatsoever. It is about how the Flames have been able to get the job done over the past little while, especially knowing their injury situation. I know "belief" is not a measureable metric, but I firmly believe it has a lot to do with what’s going on right now. The team isn’t waivering from the way they need to play, and they’re picking up points and wins because of it.