FGD: Drinking in LA

After last night’s unfortunate loss to the Ducks (16 straight in Anaheim!), the Flames find themselves having to beat the league’s best overall team on the second night of a B2B (in the Kings home barn, on less) in order to stay in the hunt for the final playoff spot. Yeesh.

Los Angeles suffered through some tough percentages to start the season, particularly thanks to Jon Quick’s uncharacteristic struggles. However, LA seems to be shaking off the doldrums recently, going 7-3-0 in their last 10. With the best underlying numbers by far in the NHL, the Kings are still a juggernaut. Once they get a stretch of consistently good goaltending or shooting results, they’ll find themselves on the of the Western standings.

The Flames, on the other hand, are still trying to figure things out. Calgary has suffered through similarly poor goaltending to start the year but aren’t quite as good as controlling play as the Kings, so the result has been Calgary sinking into the West’s basement once again. The probably deserved a better fate versus the Ducks last night, but the club is well beyond the time where shoulda’s and moral victories are worth a damn. If they lose again tonight, Calgary will have to go 15-5-3 in the final 25 games to have realistic a shot at the post-season.

The Line-up

Big news today is the return of Mikael Backlund to the active roster and the demotion of Sven Baertschi. Backlund was excellent to start the year and is probably the Flames best possession forward, so his return is a big deal.

  • Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Tanguay – Backlund – Cammalleri
  • Hudler – Cervenka – Iginla
  • Comeau – Begin – McGrattan
  • Giordano – Bouwmeester
  • Wideman – Butler
  • Brodie – Smith
  • Kiprusoff

Lines for today haven’t been officially revealed, so I’m guessing. Stajan’s trio actually had a storng evening in Anaheim and have been Hartley’s go-to option for touch match-ups recently, so I assume they stay together. This would bump Hartley’s favorite son BLake Comeau to the 4th line, which is probably where he belongs (although he had a decent game last night, truth be told).

Iginla has been playing with the czechs recently and the line has been sheltered more often than not. They have created their chances as a result, although they were also the trio that gave up the most chances against in Anaheim. There’s a chance Backlund might actually be re-united with Hulder and Cervenka given how that line was performing right before Backlund’s injury, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

On the back-end, I expect no change. Giordano has struggled a bit lately, moreso because every single obvious mistake he makes seems to inexorbaly end up in the back of the Flames net. That’s combination of bad performance and bad luck and I assume things will turn around for him down the road. Butler has played a lot recently and while he hasn’t been obviously bad or anything, like Comeau, I’m not quite sure what the bench boss has seen in his game that has resulted in the bump i ice and responsibility.

As for Baertschi, I am not too broken up about the kid going back to Abbotsford. He has had a few flashes here and there, but has mostly struggled to keep his head above water in the bigs, even with favorable circumstances. He’s not quite there yet so the org might as well let him play a bunch for the Heat so he can better find his pro legs.

The Opposition

Kings are three lines strong, with heavy hitters spread concentrated inside their top-6. And to think they got Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson. I’m guessing the Flyers would kinda like to have at least one of Carter or Richards back in their line-up right about now.

  • Williams – Kopitar – Brown
  • Penner – Carter – Richards
  • Lewis – Stoll – King
  • Clifford – Fraser – Nolan
  • Scuderi – Voynov
  • Doughty – Muzzin
  • Martinez – Ellerby
  • Quick

With Mitchell and Greene out injured, the Kings blueline is less impressive than it would be otherwise. That said, sophomore Slava Voynov is established himself as a legit top-4 option this year, significantly reducing the impact those injuries would have had otherwise.

Sum It Up

It’s already crunch time for the Flames. Tonight most people won’t be putting dollars on the Flames to win, but they have to start surprising some folks if they want to reach the post-season. Backlund’s return helps, but the team needs someone like Kipper or Iginla to go on a major run, starting tonight.