FGD: A Wild Rubber Match

For the third time this season (already) the Calgary Flames tangle with the Minnesota Wild. The Flames lost to the Wild in typical 2-1 (shootout) fashion a few weeks back, then somehow managed to avoid another shootout on Saturday and won by a 3-1 score.

With three out of a possible four points against their division rivals, the Flames look to get closer to a playoff spot tonight with their first trip this season to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Your local hockey heroes enter the evening three points out of eighth in the West, but can get to within one with a win – eighth place Dallas is playing lowly Columbus tonight, but Los Angeles is idle and both teams have the same number of points. More importantly, the Flames can get above the .500 mark for the first time under new head coach Bob Hartley. That would be tres bien, doncha think?

Game-time is 6pm on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Depending on how you experience the game, Rob Kerr and/or Peter Maher has the call.

THE LINE-UP

The Flames did the near-impossible this past weekend, winning two games in a row and doing it on back-to-back nights, no less. It’s the first time they’ve done this since December 22 and 23 of 2011. Joey MacDonald has been great and leads the team in wins by a goaltender (with 3! and Jarome Iginla seems to have found his goal-scoring touch again. Hopefully the Flames can keep this momentum going.

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester makes history tonight, as he passes former Flames coach Guy Charron to become the NHL player who’s played the most regular season games without ever playing in the playoffs (at 735 contests).

I’d expect the lines to be the same as Sunday, so expect something like this based on reports from Sportsnet’s Roger Millions from this morning’s practice in Minny:

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

Cervenka had an assist on Sunday but barely played after the first period. The team is reportedly still monitoring his conditioning and he played on the fourth line. If a line shuffle occurs during the game, expect the most likely scenario to be a swap between Cervenka and Sven Baertschi, and for Hudler to play centre on that line.

Akim Aliu is day-to-day with an unspecified malady, while Anton Babchuk and Cory Sarich are health scratches once more. According to reports from practice (via Pat Steinberg) yesterday, Miikka Kiprusoff was on the ice with the team. I’d reckon he’s about a week out, or slightly more. The Flames remain without Mikael Backlund (MCL) and Paul Byron (hand), as well.

With a two-point performance, Jarome Iginla can tie Theoren Fleury in the NHL’s all-time scoring leaderboard. Fleury had 1,088 points with Calgary, Colorado, New York and Chicago. To-date, Iginla has 1,086 points, all with the Flames.

THE OPPOSITION

The Wild have been idle since Saturday’s loss in Calgary. Including tonight, they play five times in their next eight days. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (@russotrib) reports that the Wild will be scratching Zenon Konopka and Nate Prosser, and should also be without Cal Clutterbuck once again as he recovers from a thigh contusion suffered at the hand (well, knee) of Edmonton’s Taylor Hall.

Lines should be roughly:

  • Parise – Koivu – Coyle
  • Zucker – Cullen – Setoguchi
  • Bouchard – Brodziak – Heatley
  • Rupp – Granlund – Mitchell
  • Suter – Brodin
  • Gilbert – Stoner
  • Falk – Spurgeon
  • Backstrom

Heatley was largely ineffective on Saturday and was actually demoted to the third line when coach Mike Yeo shuffled things up in the third period. Interesting that Coyle, a rookie, takes Heatley’s spot on the top line.

SUM IT UP

How many times last season did the Flames get “close” to a playoff spot but then fail to capitalize? I count roughly seven. But with their shaky start behind them and arguably getting their best, most consistent goaltending of the shortened season, the Flames have a great opportunity ahead of them tonight.

And with the season so shortened and the clock ticking, it may be the only opportunity they get.

 

  • Teamsupreme

    I always thought Hartley would be a minor saviour for us. I really hope he doesn’t start making personal grudges and just plays the best lines each game.

    • Gagne has actually been a hockey player on a real team in his career. Stajan played for the Leafs and only did well because there was no one else to score on that team.

      Didn’t Paul Gaustad go for a low 1st last deadline? What has he done this season? Yeah, I thought so. In that light, Stajan should net a first and a prospect.

      Stupid GMs.

      • beloch

        That’s more or less accurate. Stajan’s production with the Flames cratered not because his shots/TOI fell (they remained roughly the same), but because his minutes were drastically slashed and his shot% cratered. This season his shots/TOI is actually down a bit from last season (4.78 shots/60 min vs 5.82 last season) but his average minutes/game have shot up 31% from 13:01 to 17:01 (He played almost 19 minutes per game in his last season and a half with the Leafs). It also helps that his Sh% is back up to 13% this season, which is almost bang on his career average (He shot 9.1, 7.4, and 10.4% respectively in his previous three seasons as a Flame).

        Basically, he’s not nearly as bad as his counting stats as a Flame seem to indicate, but he’s looking better this season largely thanks to both his ice-time and luck returning closer to his career average. He’s even being paid a reasonable salary this year, although his cap hit is still too high.

    • beloch

      A year ago he probably had negative trade value. (i.e. We’d have had to bundle him with another pick or prospect of value to trade for a bag of pucks.) This year, he might be in positive value territory thanks to improved play and the fact that his salary is $1M below his cap-hit. However, the Flames actually need him now that he’s basically the team’s only natural center who can play above the 4th line and isn’t injured or demoted.

  • s_yav14

    Read on sportsnet the probable lines had baertschi on the 4th line while Comeau remains up on the 3rd line. Hartley needs to get his head off his a$$. First Cervenka on the 4th line now baertschi? Not sure what Comeau has on Hartley but it must be pretty bad considering how awful he looks out there yet remains up their while better, more creative players such as Baertschi and Cervenka get the shaft. Should have waived Comeau and sent him down to the AHL(because obviously no one would claim him) and kept jones up here centering the 4th line.

    • NHL93

      Obviously something is happening in practice/dressing room/personal meetings that is influencing Hartley’s decisions on Comeau, Jones and Cervenka. Comeau must be busting his hump off in practice or something. Did Jones park in the coach’s spot?

      • The whole Cervenka deal is making me wonder if Feaster used the spin machine on this one. Aferall, he made claims that cheddar was the best centre outside the NHl then spins it to he is a winger and so on. Didn’t he state the Flames were going to make the playoffs, and i could bank on it lmao.

  • beloch

    MacBackup managed a Sv% of 0.968 against the Wild on Saturday, which is actually good! Too bad his average Sv% over the other 4 games he’s played has been a truly execrable 0.883.

    While this is better than Kipper was playing, I would still not describe his record as “great”. If I were a tad sloshed I might describe his play as “aspiring towards adequacy”, but that’s as generous as I’d get.