FGD: Flames Hit the Road in Motown

After spending five of their first six games at home, the Calgary Flames head out of town for their first real road trip of the season beginning tonight. First up? A date with the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (5:30pm MT, televised on Sportsnet West and radioed by Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

Before you get too worked up, this ain’t your mother’s Red Wings team. First of all, there’s no Jiri Hudler, Nicklas Lidstrom or Tomas Holmstrom in Motown. Hudler, as you may know, is playing for the Flames now. Lidstrom and Holmstrom retired. Brad Stuart left for the Sharks. And there are a few folks injured besides. Altogether, the Red Wings are missing seven regulars from their line-up.

The Flames are 1-3-2 on the year, while the Red Wings are a comparably massive 4-3-1. Last season the teams split their four meetings evenly. They each even scored the same number of goals on each other. All-time, the Red Wings have won one more game than the Flames have head-to-head, so there’s bragging rights on the line.

And a pair of points that the Flames desperately, desperately need.

THE LINE-UP

The Flames lost a heart-breaker on Saturday against the Blackhawks but everyone – media and coaches alike – seemed very impressed with how the team basically dominated Chicago and lost due to some epically horrible luck.

Friend of the site Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) reported no changes at Monday’s early morning practice at the Corral prior to the Flames jetting out to Detroit. According to Tuesday’s morning skate, your designated scratches will be Tim Jackman and Cory Sarich.

  • Cammalleri – Tanguay – Iginla
  • Glencross – Backlund – Stempniak
  • Hudler – Stajan – Cervenka
  • Comeau – Jones – Begin
  • Bouwmeester – Giordano
  • Wideman – Brodie
  • Smith – Butler
  • Kiprusoff

Anton Babchuk has been cleared for contact and is traveling with the team, but is a ways away from slotting back in.

As you may notice, there’s a shocking amount of balance between the top three lines. Hartley’s tended to (smartly) give the Iginla and Stajan lines the offensive-zone high ground, but as the games progress (and depending on situation) he’s also sent the Czechs into the defensive zone.

Now if only Glencross and Iginla can start to light the lamp…

THE OPPOSITION

The Wings have been utterly ravaged by injuries but have still managed to keep their heads above water in the standings. They’ll be without Darren Helm, Jan Mursak, Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Brendan Smith, Joey MacDonald, Jonas Gustavsson and (maybe) Ian White. As of yesterday’s practice, here’s their most likely lines, courtesy Ansar Khan at MLive.com.

  • Franzen – Zetterberg – Brunner
  • Filippula – Datsyuk – Tatar
  • Cleary – Abdelkader – Bertuzzi
  • Miller – Emmerton – Tootoo
  • Kronwall – Ericsson
  • Quincey – Lashoff
  • Huskins – Kindl
  • Howard

Ian White, who led the Wings in scoring against Calgary last year, practiced with the team on Monday but didn’t skate in a pairing. He hopes to play, but I’d expect him to be (a) a game-time decision and (b) on the second-pairing if he does swap in, likely at Lashoff’s expense.

In an odd quirk of the AHL and NHL schedules, Tomas Tatar and goalie Petr Mrazek played for the Grand Rapids Griffins and beat the Abbotsford Heat 1-0 on Saturday, and now they’ll play on the big club against the Flames.

Overall, the Wings have survived quite well without the bodies they’re missing. Damian Brunner’s fit in admirably, but the team really doesn’t have the depth they once had. I mean, Jordin Tootoo is on their team, their bottom-six doesn’t really drive the play and their defense is a bit scary.

SUM IT UP

The Chicago Blackhawks are an excellent hockey team that the Flames just took it to on Saturday night, losing through a horrible run of luck. The Detroit Red Wings are not quite as good as the Blackhawks, and the Flames can’t keep being this unlucky, right?

Well, it’s entirely possible, but it’s not likely.

So if the Flames play as well as they did against Chicago, and Jimmy Howard doesn’t become the next Ray Emery, there’s a good chance that Calgary can leave Michigan with some points. When you consider that the Wings are utterly ravaged by injuries, the Flames won’t have a better chance to cash in on Detroit than they have right now.

 

  • icedawg_42

    If we lose to this line up we start looking for trading partners and changes right? I would like to start by giving Begin’s spot to someone who may develop.

        • beloch

          Akim Aliu is big and enthusiastic, but has serious discipline problems. We got a taste of that during his cup of coffee last year. He looked good when nobody else on the ice gave a damn about the outcome, right up until he was ejected with a 10 minute misconduct for not knowing when to shut his yap. So far this season he has racked up 47 minutes of penalties in just 20 games with the Heat. Zach McKelvie is the only Heat player who has racked up more penalties, but he’s played almost twice as many games! Aliu’s penalties are not the good kind either. Abusing an official. Multiple counts of unsportsmanlike conduct. These are *not* the result of paying the price to prevent a breakaway! Passion is great, but only if controlled.

          Aliu is basically Bourque on steroids when it comes to taking dumb penalties. He would be a *huge* liability to have on your fourth line even if your PK is up to snuff, and the Flames PK is second last in the league! I can see him being called up if there are enough injuries, but he’s probably best left in Abbotsford until he learns some self-control, *if* that ever actually happens.

          He’s got the size and raw skills to be a NHL player, but only if he smartens up.

  • Bikeit

    Even though all the stats are pointing in the right direction for the flames. I still think they need to get those ugly even strength goals. They are getting shots off rushes, passes from behind the net, d shots that the goalie corrals.

    But for god sakes cycle infront of the net as the shot is coming in. Tip it, bang and try to raise it more than 12 inches over the goalies pad. Powerplay and junk goals are the winning difference.

    Goalies help too.

    • Flames have actually had a lot of those chances too the last few games. Hell I had trouble counting the chances in the third vs CHI because there were so many scrambles and rebounds.

      I think Calgary has hit double digits when it comes to posts this year already and they have only played 6 games.

      if they keep it up, the goals will come eventually.

  • Scary Gary

    Lance Bauma would fit the bill, too bad he sprained his ACL/MCL. Aliu isn’t the best +/- player and Nemisz looks like he has cement feet.

    I’m surprised with all their injuries Detroit hasn’t make a deal for Omark yet.

  • RexLibris

    I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this , but I think the Flames can now at least skate with the Wings. They don’t need to worry about heavyweight matchups or being outmuscled. If it comes down to skill, the Red Wings still have it, but the Flames are closer to them now than they have been, by my eye, in a very long time.

    Now, if the Flames could just figure out that goaltending…

  • Scary Gary

    Nemo and a 3rd for Nino

    Babs and a 4th to Det for a 3rd

    Begin sent down

    Sven sent down (once back from injury)

    Cammi and Smith to Phx for Yandle

    Glencross – Cervenka – Iginla
    Tanguay – Backlund – Hudler
    Niederreiter – Stajan – Stempniak
    Comeau – Jones – Jackman

    Bouwmeester – Giordano
    Wideman – Yandle
    Brodie – Butler

    Kiprusoff

  • I’m hoping for a solid defeat tonight. Apparently losing isn’t enough to convince people we need to rethink things. I was cheering for exciting hockey, close games and beating the Oilers, but losing pretty much every game so we can get that superstar player we need. I thought if we lost a bunch (check) and got last place (check) that people would join in and start cheering for a lottery pick as well as shipping Iggy off into the sunset. But apparently people are still finding hope in getting lots of shots and outchancing teams even if we lose. Losing every game isn’t enough apparently.

    So now I cheer for complete domination and embarassing loses. 5-0 Detroit. Common baby….

    #NateMcKinnon
    #SethJones
    #TradeIggyPLEASE

      • Willi P

        Common! Try it. Its not so bad. I was like you but once I gave in its liberating!

        Over the past 3 years I’ve lost sleep, called into the radio to rant, wrote hundreds of comments on websites, swore a LOT, smashed things and been generally crushed over and over. And we have nothing to show for it. Sven is great and all, but he isn’t going to replace Iggy as the new franchise player. There are only 40’ish games left. 3 months of pain for 10+ years of benefit from a 1st overall pick.

        If the team isn’t a contender the absolute best possible thing that could happen would be dead fricken last. Nate McKinnon!

      • Willi P

        No one likes to lose but I also would like to see some solid hockey moves that give us hope to challenge in the future. That would include Kipper and Iggy being moved which would result in a very high draft and some quality prospects. I could handle losing for a bit if it meant we had a chance at drafting a Mckinnon or a Jones type player.

    • Willi P

      If you want to cheer for a team that tanks every year to get 1st overall picks, there is a team about 3 hours North of here that has been doing that for years.

      • jeremywilhelm

        ok I don’t want to sabatoge this comments section, since I know many are on here being positive and looking forward to cheering on the boys… So my last post….

        But I think its pretty clear who will come out ahead of the last 3 years. Both teams missed the playoffs 3 years. We got Sven out of the last 3 years of misery. Oilers got Taylor Hall, Nugent Hopkins and Yakupov. Its silly to laugh at them. We are the suckers… Really doing what we did is WAY worse than getting 30th for the team.

        anyways, I digress. Enjoy the game everyone.

        • jeremywilhelm

          Although you may get blasted, your point is valid. Not only have we been out of the playoffs for 3 seasons, but we are continuing to slide while that team 3 hours up the highway can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

          • jeremywilhelm

            Really? Do the Islanders? Did the Thrashers? Do the Blue Jackets?

            Being a sh!tty team for several years does not guarantee future success. Talk to me when they picked up a set of top pairing Dmen and some real centers and oh, maybe a goalie.

          • icedawg_42

            Relax Jeremy. Did I say it was a guarantee? The only guarantee right now is that we are going into 4 years in a row of no playoffs and few quality prospects coming up meaning a different approach is needed.
            As for the Oilers, they look to have a budding star on defense as well as a pretty highly rated prospect in Europe. Last time I looked their goalie was performing quite a bit better than ours too. All the teams you are ripping are ahead of the Flames btw.

          • redricardo

            Amen brother.

            Even if we wait for the Oilers to actually turn a corner before anointing them “the next ones for rebuilding the right way!” (as many in the media have already done…) we still need to ignore the Islanders and BlueJackets of the world, perennially sucking.

            Not the way I want to see my team go as a fan.

            You can improve without sucking. We’ll see where we are by the end of the year, but we’re already showing improvement in key areas and turning in better performances. See how a 48 game sample size works.

            I still think there’s moves to be made. If there’s a market for Iggy or Kipper at the trade deadline, take it. Sell your diminishing assets for as high as possible. But I am a fan of Feaster and the moves he’s making.

            In short, I believe we’re trending upwards despite the standings, if you blow it up for the sake of sucking you’re just as likely to be the next Islanders as you are Blackhawks, and the Oilers still suck.

          • icedawg_42

            I dont think there’s any reason to ‘blast’ Kurt…I personally just don’t think the roster is “THAT” bad – and ask anyone around here, I’ve been pretty hard on the roster and the mess Dutter made of things around here for a while. If there’s one thing I learned from all those miserable, down in the dumps Oiler fans up there, it’s the importance of having “fun” hockey to watch. Sutter hockey is brutal. By all accounts, the Flames are acutally fun to watch for a change

            Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the Flames win the big one too – but I dont think the Oilers are guaranteed anything by any means – and I certainly don’t want to sit through 5 years of “Fail for Nail” type philosophy…

        • Scary Gary

          I think the point is it doesn’t have to be one (oiler style) or the other (flames with Sutter style), we can retool with veterans and draft picks (Detroit etc) while putting on an entertaining product for the fans.

          The Oilers got their picks by being terrible for the past five years and absolutely atrocious for three of those.

          I’m not sure why you’d want that.

        • Willi P

          And my last post about this too as I prepare for the game.

          In my mind, the two best young players on the Oiler team are Eberle (by far) and Schultz. Eberle was a 22nd pick or something and Shultz was a FA.

          The other three, we will see. Don’t like Hall, reckless, cocky and puck hog; RNH, we will see and Yakupov, see Hall comments minus the reckless.

          The Oilers should have drafted the other T and Ryan Murray instead of Hall and Nail (IMO). You can have all the picks in the world but you shouldn’t always draft the “perceived” best player but the one that fits your plan. I don’t think that is what the Oilers did and it will prolong and perhaps waste their favourable 3 picks in a row….but as you said Kurt, I digress.

  • icedawg_42

    Maybe this is off topic, but I LOVE teasing all those Oiler fans that their high end prospects will bloom and become elite just in time for Edmonton to lose them to free agency, or go broke trying to keep them, and that they’ll have a 2 year window at best. I may be wrong or right, but that would sure be effin’ funny!

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Funny, I’ve been saying the same thing to my Oiler aquatintants, except I usually add ‘because that’s what everybody with skill in Edmonton does, they LEAVE Edmonton”

  • RexLibris

    I don’t think Kurt is wrong with what he is saying. I think he just wants the team to decide on a path and stick to it. What they are doing now is trying to promise fans the best of both worlds with little or no way of actually doing so.

    As for rebuilding, there are no guarantees in sport. You just have to try and orchestrate your fate to the best of your ability/assets.

    The Flames will rebuild in time. Maybe this year, maybe next. The real question is where will they be when they start and who will be at the helm?

  • Fun Fact: The Flames have four of their own draft picks on their roster (Steve Begin, Leland Irving, T.J. Brodie and Mikael Backlund).

    A case can be made that the Flames acquired and developed Mark Giordano, as well.

  • Ian White is IN for the Red Wings. Kindl is scratched.

    Flames starters: Kiprusoff, Bouwmeester, Giordano, Stajan, Hudler, Cervenka
    Red Wings starters: Howard, Quincey, Ericsson, Zetterberg, Brunner, Franzen

  • Vintage Flame

    Something i have never really understood is just how black and white this “rebuild” has to be.

    Whether we as fans acknoledge it or not, this team has been rebuilding and have now started to ramp that up even more.

    Just because the Flames have not gone the route of “blowing it up” doesn’t mean they are bound a determined to ram the “standing pat” view down the fans throat either.

    There were significant additions made this last off-season and I have no doubt there will be more to follow in the coming off-season.

    They have changed their draft strategy significantly since the rule of D. Sutter, so I fail to see why we haven’t acknoledged that they are rebuilding.

  • JohnnyUtah

    Casual Flames fan here from SK…but thought I’d chime in. The Flames have some of the tools to be a competitive and entertaining team; however, they also have some aging relics that are better served on a different team.

    Without Iggy the Flames will still play some exciting hockey, and will open the door for a new leader to step forward. I’d hate to see him go but for progress sake it’s time to start a new chapter.