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.