FGD: Things To Do In Denver (When You’re Dying To Be Above .500)



Your Calgary Flames have a bit of a problem, gang. They’re seemingly allergic to getting over that hump at the .500 mark. They’re 0-3-1 this year in games that could’ve put them over the top, and have arguably put out their four worst games of the year in those four outings. Heck, the same thing happened early last season and the Flames were only 3-4-2 when entering a game with a .500 record and the “horrible effort” train chugs back to that point last year, most notably the 9-0 mauling by the Bruins.

But the Flames get a second chance tonight, as they head into snowy Denver to tangle with the Colorado Avalanche. These two teams did battle in Calgary earlier this season, with the Flames blowing a third period tie in rather spectacular fashion and losing 6-3. They’re hoping to put together a strong effort tonight.


To say the Flames were “flat” on Tuesday against Minnesota would be charitable. The entire team is probably thankful that Joey MacDonald was there to keep them in the game. Through the first 18 games, MacDonald is the only Flames goalkeeper with a respectable save percentage. His start tonight will see him pass Miikka Kiprusoff for the most time in a Flames net this season.

It’s been a weird year. Here’s the probable lines for tonight, courtesy of Sportsnet’s Roger Millions (@rogmillions):

  • Tanguay – Stajan – Iginla
  • Glencross – Cammalleri – Stempniak
  • Baertschi – Hudler – Comeau
  • Aliu – Begin – Jackman
  • Giordano – Bouwmeester
  • Brodie – Wideman
  • Butler – Sarich
  • MacDonald

Aliu’s back, at the expense of (likely) Roman Cervenka. Cervenka has been “fine” this year. If you’re asking why Blake Comeau is (a) still in the top-nine and (b) has played 17 of the 18 games this year, I have no idea. He’s the Anton Babchuk of Flames forwards – he seemed like a decent low-risk pick-up at the time but I have no idea why you re-sign him or retain him in your line-up when the results have been so middling to poor. Particularly in the top-9 rotation.

On the other hand, Matt Stajan continues to be awesome.


The Avalanche are missing a ton of bodies and are riding a three-game winless streak (all of which took place on the same terrible road trip to California). Now back home, they’re hoping to get healthy and get back on track. Like the Flames, Colorado hasn’t been above the .500 mark all year, but can get back to the black with a win against the Flames.

Courtesy of the Herald’s Scott Cruickshank, here are the probable lines:

  • McGinn – Stastny – Parenteau
  • Landeskog – Mitchell – Jones
  • McLeod – Olver – Hejduk
  • Bordeleau – Kobasew – Palushaj
  • Hejda – Barrie
  • Hunwick – O’Byrne
  • O’Brien – Zanon
  • Varlamov

Matt Duchene didn’t practice at Wednesday’s optional session, but could slot in for the Avs. He’s been out day-to-day with a groin issue. Also out for the Avalanche are Ryan Wilson, Erik Johnson, Steve Downie and the un-signed Ryan O’Reilly.

Despite their mediocre record, the Avalanche aren’t a bad team – although that blueline is a tad thin (a product of injuries). Their two top lines are respectable and former Flames pick Chuck Kobasew has carved out a fairly distinguished career for himself. Thursday will be his 548th NHL contest, which makes him noteworthy amongst a string of awful, awful Flames first rounders.


With a fully healthy (and signed) roster, the Avalanche are every bit Calgary’s equal talent-wise. However, the Flames largely out-played Colorado for 40 minutes at home when they played last month. Sadly, that was followed by a weird, wacky third period where bad luck and inconsistency burned the Flames and gave them a loss.

Life’s not full of second chances, but the Flames have a shot to get above .500 once more. Their four previous opportunities to do so were, to be blunt, horrible. Let’s hope that’s not repeated in Denver.


  • The way the Flames have played, Duchene will show up and score, Landeskog will pot a hat trick, and Varlamov pitches a shutout.

    Flames are the slumpbusters of the NHL.

    ‘Not winnin’ for MacKinnon’

  • Parallex

    Arg… Why does Cervenka sit why? It makes no sense what so ever. He’s better then at least 4 of the guys drawing in. Can someone with a press pass please ask him? For reals

    I was a fan of what Hartley was doing earlier in the season but that goodwill is rapidly evaporating.

    • Unless it’s some “Blair Jones didn’t stick up for Babchuk when everyone called him a loser” crap, Cervenka is *supposedly* not acclimating well to NHL ice and his conditioning is poor.

      Of course, I don’t believe what they tell us. Hartley likes certain players and hates others it seems, and it’s that simple.

      Hartley’s probably disappointed they couldn’t get McGrattan in the lineup for tonight. You know, because the Flames SORELY need him to beat up Bordeleau or O’Brien.

  • GermanFlame

    Flames will win this one to spite all of us. Comeau somehow scores a goal, with his back or something, because how the heck else is he going to score? With his stick? HA

    It will happen this way because that’s how it works in Flamesland!


  • SydScout

    Dang. Following these this team is like turning up to a playboy mansion full of 20 year old babes, and you’re with Madonna. No doubt there’d be a few that want to be in your position but mostly the masses are laughing at your misfortune.

    Not suggesting anyone blowup Madonna, but Hartley if you’re reading this, we wouldn’t mind if you gave us a shot at Hef’s bunnies!

    ‘Not winnin’ for MacKinnon’ @FireOnIce

  • AF

    Management seems to lack common sense these days. It’s unfortunate but it’s the truth.

    Sure we need toughness and more grit but McGrattan isn’t the solution, he’s a Steve MacIntyre type of player. We need to find our Scott Hartnell or Steve Ott. Some sort of player who is tough but can actually play hockey. Is that too much to ask? What the F— are we doing?

  • RexLibris

    The Flames are currently sitting just ahead of the Oilers at the bottom of the overall standings.

    With Backlund and Kiprusoff due back I think Not Winnin for MacKinnon is off the table. Perhaps Sutter’s Curse for Darnell Nurse?

    If they win tonight they jump even further up the standings. The interesting thing about the standings this year is how insanely close they are such that the Flames, at 23rd overall, are still only four points away from 14th overall. Tie-breakers may factor in greatly at the draft order this year.

  • AF

    Here we go again, 10th place a few points short of the playoffs. mcgratton, gawd he’s a punch drunk goon playin in the minors. the signs are all there another dismal dismal year. core one year older cupboards almost bare. and i don’t believe in the management.

  • McRib

    Honestly Blake Comeau over Roman Cervenka…. You have to be kidding!!! Comeau is the reason Baertschi has not scored the past two/three games, ZERO chemistry.

    And really Brian Mcgrattan… He was hardly an NHLer last go around with us TWO YEARS AGO!! Man the Flames look desperate, picking up everyones scraps. If yo can even call it that.

    The only thing that makes us remotely competitive is teams are hardly even showing up to play us. Playing backup netminders and resting their stars, Kopitar literally had five shifts against us. Once the Playoff stretch hits in the next 10-15 games, when teams become more desperate, we are going to get left in the dust.

  • McRib

    In terms of the whole ‘Not winnin’ for MacKinnon’…. I agree about the ‘Not Winnin’ part…. But not for MacKinnon, the Media has completly overhyped him. How is he still 2nd on most list with only 69 Points in the weakest CHL league?? Just don’t understand the Hype. Have seen him play a dozen times never done anything for me. Sean Monahan has as many points with zero help and in a much better league.

    Jonathan Drouin is twice the player MacKinnon is, in only two more games he has 25 more points!! MacKinnon has totally peaked he may not even reach his totals from last season. Could see him falling come draft day. Honestly how is he still Top. 2 in most rankings?? I know everyone is going to jump down my throat but just don’t understand his hype. Drouin has outshined him at every level this season.

    ‘Not Winnin’ for Jones, Drouin, Barkov, Monahan or Nichushkin!!!

  • schevvy

    With the addition of McGratten it clearly pushes the Flames over the top.

    Haha, just kidding. What the hell is going on?? McGratten? Really? I’d rather have Aliu (who’s not an NHL’er either btw) just simply cause he’s younger. McGratten’s terrible and always will be. This team has no direction, they’re a mess and keep trying to plug holes that don’t need plugged, instead of fixing the big holes (CENTRES ANYONE?). Brutal, disaster.

    Flames win 4-2 tonight.