Tonight, in the last game before the Christmas break, the Calgary Flames (13-17-6) will host the St. Louis Blues (24-7-4). Tonight is somewhat of a special affair as Jay Bouwmeester will make his return to the Saddledome for the first time since the trade last Spring.
Bouwmeester was dealt to the Blues late last season in exchange for a 1st round pick (Poirier), Mark Cundari and Reto Berra when the Flames decided it was finally time to rebuild. The always reliable Bouwmeester suited up for 279 straight games for the Flames, often logging 20 + minutes a night. However, his impact with the Flames was nothing like Jarome Iginla`s and the celebration of Jay`s return to Calgary will be much like his personality … non-existent.
The Blues find themselves in the #5 spot for league positioning. Right in there with your Chicagos, Anaheims, Pittsburghs and LAs. There`s no denying that these guys are goooooood.
The recipe for success in St. Louis is simple. Put heaping amounts of everything that makes a hockey team great into a blender, pour and serve. The Blues have big guys with skill (Backes, Stewart, Oshie, Steen, Pietrangelo, Bouw, etc.). They have an excellent goaltending tandem in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. They have maybe the best defense core in the league. Finally, the whole team is a defense first group of gentleman and don`t give the opposition an inch.
The only thing the Blues are really missing is that game-breaking elite scorer (Crosby, Ovechkin, P. Kane type guy). However, Alex Steen ìs certainly making a case to be that guy, putting up 24 goals and 38 points in 35 games thus far.
As always, thanks to our dudes at www.dailyfaceoff.com for the lines.
- Galiardi – Stajan – Stempniak
- Cammalleri – Backlund – Byron
- Hudler – Colborne – D. Jones
- Bouma – Monahan – McGrattan
- Smid – Gio
- Butler – Brodie
- Breen – O`Brien
The Flames are once again a banged up group. Glencross and Russell both left the Pittsburgh game with apparent knee injuries. Both are huge losses for the Flames, but especially Russell. Russell was having himself a year! Reliable, hard-working and bringing an offensive ability few realized he had, Russell will be missed if he`s out for any significant time. The Flames have re-called Derek Smith in Russell`s absence.
Monahan has shot down the depth chart of late and finds himself in between McGrats and Bouma on the 4th line. It`s obvious to all of us that he still has an injury plaguing him. The Flames should just sit him this game and let him heal over the Christmas break.
Berra will be in net tonight. Hartley`s been running with both goalies recently and tonight is Berra`s turn. Berra, a former Blue, will be jacked up to play his former team and hopefully that translates to a positive performance.
Note: The Flames lines for tonight got mixed around quite a bit from the earlier predictions so I’ve just done a wholesale change on them rather than crossing them out.
- Jaskin – Backes – Oshie
- Schwartz – Berglund – Tarasenko
- Morrow – Roy – Stewart
- Paajarvi – Lapierre – Porter
- Pietrangelo – Bouwmeester
- Shattenkirk – Jackman
- Colaiacovo – Cole
Alex "he’s so hot right now" Steen is listed on the first line still but he has a lower body injury and will not be in the line-up tonight.
It is unclear at this point who the Blues Dmitrij Jaskin will slot in on the left side with Backes and Oshie. Speaking of Backes, he is quietly having a heck of a year himself. A two-way center usually good for 50-60 points, Backes is on pace for 75 points which would shatter his single season record of 62.
The Blues backend is a little banged up but they still have their big three in action: Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk. All three Olympic-bound defenseman are on pace for 50 + points a year (Shattenkirk is actually on pace for 60 points). I can’t remember the last time three defensemen on one team racked up points like that. I’m sure it’s happened (and you guys will let me know) but it probably hasn’t happend for a while.
Elliott was in net for the roasting of Edmonton over the weekend so we’ll probably see Halak tonight.
SUM IT UP
I feel like I’ve said this a lot this month, but the Flames are going up against a good team tonight. The Blues are a really solid all-around team. The Flames will have to be as good, if not better, than they were on Saturday against the Penguins to compete in this one. That being said, the Flames have been working their tail off recently and have been in every game in December. They haven’t won every game, as you might expect. But they are certainly giving this fan base something to stand behind. Hopefully the Flames bring their lunch pails again tonight and give this solid Blues team a run for their money.
Note: It’s an early one tonight. The game starts at 6pm MT.