After a spirited, albeit disappointing, game in the capital of America on Thursday night, the Flames travel to the great state of Ohio for the first of two meetings with the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’ll be the second game in as many nights for the Flames – and the first set of 12 back-to-backs this season – while it’ll be the first game of this campaign for the Jackets. Calgary will get a second chance to make a first impression, as well as a second chance to spoil a home-opener.
Oh, and Columbus is also the site of this piece of history.
Rob Kerr and Charlie Simmer have this one for you on Sportsnet West starting at 5pm MT, while the dynamic radio duo of Pete and Pete (Maher and Loubardias) have it on the Fan 960 at that same time. FN will have this covered on the Twitters and in the comments, as well as the usual post-game shenanigans.
The Flames are playing in the back half of a back-to-back; in 2012-13, they were an identical 3-6-0 in the front and back-halfs of B2B’s. If both games were on the road, odds are the Flames lost both of them, as they were just lousy on the road. If nothing else, last night’s tremendous effort – while disappointing due to the blown lead and loss – is a good sign that the team will make things difficult for the home squad for once.
Expect to see some new faces in the line-up, as both Roger Millions and the Sun’s Wes Gilbertson – both travelling with the team – noted on Twitter that there were some injuries, perhaps to Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak. Per DailyFaceoff.com, the projected line-up (pending some scratches and swaps).
Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
Hudler – Backlund – Galiardi
Baertschi – Monahan – Jones
Bouma – Street/Colborne – McGrattan
Brodie – Giordano
Wideman – Russell
Butler – O’Brien
Joey MacDonald starts for the Flames in the back-half of a back-to-back. MacDonald was just fine in the pre-season, and was basically just fine throughout last year, although “fine” was better than whatever Miikka Kiprusoff was. We’re hearing via the Twitter that Joe Colborne will likely play (and I’d suspect that means Tim Jackman and/or Derek Smith might cycle in), but I suspect a few guys are banged up and will be warm-up decisions.
Columbus raises the curtain on a season with rather high expectations. They went 24-17-7 last year, narrowly missing the playoffs (by a point) on the back of a disgustingly great Sergei Bobrovsky. They added Nathan Horton, will get a healthy Marian Gaborik back and add in Ryan Murray, who’s great if he’s not injured. They begin their first season in the Eastern Conference with a game against one of the Western teams they’ve had the most success against traditionally.
But hey, with Horton injured, it’s basically the same Columbus team as last year. Via our pals at DailyFaceoff.com, the projected Jackets lines:
Jenner – Dubinsky – Gaborik
Calvert – Johansen – Atkinson
Letestu – Anisimov – Comeau
Umberger – MacKenzie – Foligno
No Jared Boll. And Fedor Tyutin is doubtful due to an injury and apparently Jackets coach Todd Richards will update his status after morning skate. The Jackets site has Dalton Prout on the first pairing and Tim Erixon (remember him?) as Nikitin’s partner, although beat reporter Aaron Portzline suggests that Erixon sits and David Savard plays. Last word (via the Columbus Dispatch) is that Tyutin is a game-time decision.
Lots of Flames connections here! Johansen and Baertschi are old Portland Winterhawks teammates! Comeau played here until he was traded at the deadline for a pick that became Eric Roy! Erixon was traded for a bunch of guys in Abbotsford (Roman Horak, Tyler Wotherspoon and Markus Granlund) while becoming a fringe NHLer, albeit a talented one. McElhinney was McBackup in Calgary, not to be confused with Joey “MacBackup” MacDonald.
Overall, the Jackets have great goaltending (maybe), an underrated defensive group and an underwhelming group of top nine forwards in Horton’s absense. The Jackets should be a strong test for the Flames – because every team will be this year – but they don’t boast the sort of game breaking talent the Caps do.
SUM IT UP
With one point in their pockets already, the Flames have – by their recent standards – had a fairly good start to their opening road trip. If they can put together another solid 60 minutes, perhaps they can get another point against Columbus.
Then again, it may be a tall order, as the Flames historically are snake-bit in Ohio – they have an 8-15-1 lifetime record at Nationwide Arena – and the Jackets have Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s really good. But they managed to beat the Jackets in Columbus last year with Leland Irving of all people in net, so anything can happen if they work hard and keep their sticks on the ice and hockey cliche.