Tonight, in the first game of 2014, the Calgary Flames (14-20-6) host the Tampa Bay Lightning (24-12-4) at the Saddledome. The night will mark the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Cup Final between these two teams, as this will be the only meeting between the teams this year. Martin St. Louis, the man that broke all of our hearts in double overtime of game six in 2004, is the only player left from either team.
The Lighting are playing well right now, going 7-2-1 in their last ten games. This is despite not having their stud goal-scorer, Steven Stamkos, in the line-up for the past 20ish games. Their goal production has certainly tapered off since losing Stamkos, as they were near the top of the league in goals for at the start of the season. Since Stamkos went down, the Lightning have dropped down to the middle of the pack in that category.
The Flames, on the other hand, come into this one starved for offense. To date, the Flames have scored the second fewest goals in the league this year, behind only Buffalo. Add to that, they have only one goal in their past three games and it’s safe to say the Flames could use a couple goals.
The Flames were pretty good for the lion’s share of December, losing a game by more than one goal only once during the first 27 or so days. However, since an epic come from behind win against the Blues on December 23, the Flames have hit a wall, losing thrice times consecutively to Edmonton, Vancouver and Philly. No worries though. The reinforcements have arrived by way of three-time goal scorer Kevin Westgarth.
If recent history is an indication, this is exactly the type of game the Flames need. Since the seven game series in 2004, the Lighting and Flames have played each other six times. In those games, 52 goals have been scored; each team scoring 26 times. That’s an average of 4.3 goals per game for each team.
There have been some wild ones between these two in the last few years. Of note, a few years ago, the Flames beat the Lightning 9-6 in Tampa and two Flames put up hat-tricks. The Flames fan base could certainly use one of those games tonight to end this current dry spell.
Thanks to www.dailyfaceoffs.com, as always, for the line combos.
- Cammalleri – Monahan – D. Jones
- Hudler – Backlund –
- Byron – Stajan – McGrattan
- Bouma – Colborne – Westgarth
- Brodie – Giordano
- Smid – Wideman
- Butler – O’Brien
As promised by Brian Burke, truculence is slowly starting to take over the bottom six for the Flames. With the addition of Westgarth, we now have a ginormous 4th line. Also, with the Westgarth move, we find ourselves with a plethora of big players with little skill so McGrats has been upgraded to the third line with Franchise and Byron. The corsi will be high tonight, my friends.
At last check, Stempniak had a mean case of the flu and was a no go for tonight. We’ll see if his health has improved.
Note: Looks like Stempniak is good to go and Galiardi is going to come out. McGrats is still slotting on the third line though.
On a positive note, the Flames will get Dennis Wideman back tonight after he’s missed six weeks with a broken arm. Wideman brings some much needed offensive ability to the back-end and should help a dreadful Flames powerplay. He should assume his regular quarterback position on the PP.
Ramo will get the nets tonight after Berra started the last four. Berra, to his credit, played pretty well in those games and probably would have won a few more had the Flames been able to score anything at the other end.
- Palat – Johnson – St. Louis
- Killorn – Filppula – Purcell
- Kucherov – Thompson – Brown
- ? – Panik – Cole
- Carle – Gudas
- Hedman – Sustr
- Brewer – Barberio
Flames fans won’t get to see the league’s purest goal scorer tonight as Stamkos is still out with a broken leg. He’s skating but it will probably be at least two weeks before he’s back at it. The hope is that he’s back for the Olympics in February.
The Flames fans also won’t get a chance to see Jonathan Drouin, the highly skilled playmaking winger, who was a top draft pick of the Lighting in 2013. He was sent back to junior for the start of the season. He is currently torching the CHL with 50 points in 23 games will no doubt be a big part of this Lightning team moving forward.
Ben Bishop should be in the net tonight for the Lightning. Bishop, fresh off of a U.S. Olympic team snub, is having a career year. He is 21-5-3 and has a .935 save percentage. He is a big reason why the Lightning should be a sure bet for the playoffs this year.
SUM IT UP
The Flames will face-off against the Lightning, the team that ripped the Cup from their fingertips ten years ago. The Flames come into this one in dire need of some offensive production, having scored only one goal in their last three games. Offense has not been an issue when these teams have met in recent years, as they have traded goals back and forth with regularity. Hopefully, this trend continues tonight and the Flames end their current five game homestand with a handful of goals and a victory.