FGD: Fishing With Dynamite

After a road trip that netted just a single win, the Calgary Flames (6-9-2) return home to try to bolster their fairly-strong home record and creep back to .500 when they host the San Jose Sharks (10-2-5). The puck drops at 7pm MT on the Sportsnet media properties (I believe it’s on Sportsnet West tonight).

The Flames have played just six of their 17 games this season at the Saddledome, which is good because they’ve produced seven points. The downside is they’re still going to play some really strong teams, but for some reason, the Flames have been appreciably better at home over the past few seasons than on the road. (Last year, they were awful on the road.)

After losing three straight on the road, and putting up just two points in their last six games, the Flames need some wins. They’ll be facing a similarly desperate San Jose club, who haven’t won a game in their last five (they’re 0-1-4) and probably view this game as the proverbial slump-buster. The two clubs met in San Jose on October 19, where the Sharks skated away with a 6-3 win (that was closer than the score appeared).

THE LINE-UP

The Flames haven’t won since Sunday’s 3-2 triumph in Chicago, and have slipped from being a team hovering just over .500 to one falling out of the picture a bit. The team heads into this week 10 points out of a playoff spot, and while they may not have any delusions of a Stanley Cup parade in the near future, they probably want to remain competitive at the very least.

Via our buds at Daily Faceoff, some lines for this evening.

Cammalleri (A) – Backlund – Hudler
Galiardi – Stajan (A) – Jones
Baertschi – Monahan – Stempniak (A)
Bouma – Colborne – McGrattan

Brodie – Butler
Russell – Wideman
Smid – Smith

Berra
Ramo

Tim Jackman, Max Reinhart and Shane O’Brien are your healthy scratches, while Curtis Glencross (knee), Mark Giordano (ankle) and Chris Breen (abdomen) are on the injured reserve. Lee Stempniak returns to the line-up while Ladislav Smid makes his debut in a red jersey after seven years in Edmonton.

The Flames defensive play arguably bottomed-out when they had Giordano, Stempniak and a healthy Mikael Backlund missing from their line-up. With Smid debuting and Stempniak back, expect the team to be better without the puck. That said, this is still a strong Sharks team, so it’ll be a big test for their systems (and a test of how Smid can get up to speed). The forward line-up is virtually unchanged from Denver, albeit with Stempniak taking Max Reinhart’s spot on the third line. The Backlund/Cammalleri/Hudler line was excellent in the second and third periods.

Keep your eye on the power-play. They haven’t scored a goal with the extra man since October 21 in LA (a gulf of nine games, during which they’re 2-7-0) and they’re probably due, as nobody can be that bad or that unlucky for this long.

THE OPPOSITION

The Sharks have had a rough-ish go of it, by their standards, in recent weeks. They haven’t won since October 27 against Ottawa, although they have had points in an overtime loss to Los Angeles and shootout losses against Phoenix, Buffalo and Winnipeg. Much like Calgary, you could argue that the Sharks have merely been unlucky, not out-and-out bad.

Daily Faceoff has line-ups.

Hertl – Thornton (C) – Wingels
Pavelski – Couture – Nieto
Kennedy – Marleau (A) – Havlat
Sheppard – Desjardins – Brown

Vlasic – Braun
Boyle (A) – Irwin
Hannan – Demers

Stalock
Niemi

The key to victory for the Sharks may merely be limiting Calgary’s offense – San Jose has allowed four goals in four of their last five games, so perhaps they need to get scored on less to win. Back-up Alex Stalock is expected to get his second start of the year, which may be the change of energy that San Jose needs.

The Sharks are employing some scoring-by-committee, with six forwards (including Wingels) with 10 points or more – contrast with three in Calgary. This will make it a bit of a challenge for Calgary to defend. The big threat on the Sharks may still be Tomas Hertl, the NHL’s hottest rookie, but Wingels has been red-hot of late and the Flames defenders should have their hands full defending their top six. And let’s face it, San Jose’s third line is still pretty solid. San Jose’s back end may be their weakness, as many of their blueliners aren’t amazingly fleet of foot, but the Sharks have done a credible job of bringing in young faces to bolster their line-up.

SUM IT UP

The Flames have returned home and open a three-game homestand tonight against San Jose. They will likely have their hands full against the Sharks’ high-octane offense. But the return of Lee Stempnak (and Smid’s debut) could bolster their defensive game, so it’ll be very interesting to see which club can snap out of their recent losing streak.

  • Ahh yup, the Sharks are elite.

    Nobody having a good game in red so far. The Wideman pairing looked uncharacteristically rough.

    The Sharks attack is part of the problem. They are always pressuing the puck carrier when the Flames are trying to transition. The back-end can’t seem to handle it, so it’s causing delays in getting the puck through the neutral zone, which results in giant gaps between the forwards and defenders. That means long passes, bad bets.

    And, of course, the Sharks are excellent at managing the puck in the offensive zone as well.

  • I am worried when I read an article that says the Flames need some wins during this rebuilding season. Does this mean you are against the rebuild or just spoiled by the good start. I have no problems during the rebuild with them losing if I can see development and effort, for the most part I can say I have been entertained and happy with the effort. I have embraced the idea of the rebuild.

  • RedMan

    The debut of Smid should be interesting, I’ve heard he’s a character guy in the dressing room. He will block shots, he’s not overly physical or anything but he will chip off the glass and out. Some called him a Czech version of Robyn Regehr, others keep comparing him to Frank Musil. Glad to see SOB sitting, he better get used to sitting in the press box a lot more in the future. SJ started red hot but have cooled off a little, they now sit 5th in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. You might need 100 points this season to make the playoffs in the West. Lucky fans at the dome will get a first hand look at Hertl.

  • MattyFranchise

    I like Smid as a number 5 dman on this team when Gio is healthy but what the hell is Butler doing all the way up there while Smid is way down there? Smid should be given the toughs with Brodie. If he can handle it in Edmonton then he should do just fine in the role with Calgary until Gio gets back.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to his Flames debut. I’ve always thought that Smid is a pretty good defensive defender.

  • cunning_linguist

    That 3rd line is exactly what I wanted to see. Stempniak is a guy that I wanna see regularly play with Sven, since he is an established 2 way guy. If Hartley feels Sven has to improve in all 3 zones, putting him with Stemps is a smart move. Good move Hartley

  • cunning_linguist

    Still don’t get why Butler is in the lineup…He’s just as bad as SOB but without the physical play. Once Gio is back, I hope they keep Smith over Buttler…or even call up someone who can develop at this level (ie: Cundari) and hasn’t peaked at replacement level or below

    • The Butler strategy seems to be “pair him with a mobile puck mover” who can do the bulk of the distribution. With Bouwmeester and Brodie, he looks okay. with guys like O’Brien, he sinks faster than an Italian guy in cement shoes.

        • Butler’s just generally bad with the puck. He’s mobile, but doesn’t have good vision, panics when pressured and doesn’t have a good first pass. So if you have a dude with him who can control the play a lot better, then he can just sit back and try not to be a liability.

          • mattyc

            Hmmm. Yeah I tend to agree. I think it’s interesting on a bigger scale because it hints that there is a certain comparability or “chemistry” between certain players. Reminds me of how New Jersey used to have those complementary d pairings that worked so well in the late 90s that some teams (kings to name one) seem to try to emulate.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I agree, would’ve loved to see Reinhart in again. Why not swap him with Mcgrattan and spread the minutes a bit more evenly over the bottom three lines. Something like 8-9 minutes for 4th line, 10-11 3rd line and so on.

      • seve927

        I wouldn’t complain. I thought Reinhart played well last game.

        But in saying that Hartley would probably then scratch Smith for O’Brien to give us a guy who can fight if need be…Even though I think we all agree Bouma could do the job..

  • Parallex

    Geez, San Jose is redonk deep at forward.

    I actually have a good feeling about tonight… Home Game, well rested, San Jose back-up in net, Hartley constructing a roster without any “WTF!” placements, Upgrade on D with Smid in (and O’Brien out), Stempniak back, and Backlund likely to get more minutes.

  • RedMan

    we need to either win more or win less… get in the hunt or focus on rebuild and development and draft.

    personally i dont mind losses if we are competing and developing.

    anyway, i predict a 4-2 win tonight with an empty netter by stempniak and a fight by smid.

    • RexLibris

      Smid doesn’t fight that often.

      In fact, I think Gagner has more career tilts than Smid.

      He does some nice stickwork to clear his crease though. Doesn’t like door-to-door salesmen in the blue paint.