FGD: Gaining Momentum

-via wilsonti

Tonight, the Calgary Flames (16-24-6) continue their mini two-game east coast road trip when they head to Music City U.S.A aka Nashville, Tennessee for a date with the Predators (19-21-7).  The puck drops at 6 pm MT.  Catch it on the Fan960 or Sportsnet West.

After arguably the worst stretch of the Flames’ existence, that saw them get shut out 5 out of 7 games, the Flames have been turning the tide on scoresheet terribleness.  The better play started to take shape on Saturday when the Flames put in a pretty good effort against Crosby and the Penguins.  They lost the game but the effort was there and they scored once.  All positives.  The momentum continued into last night’s tilt with the Hurricanes.  The Flames played their best road game in about two months in this one.  The Flames skated away with a 2-0 victory.

The Predators, the Flames’ opponent tonight, have been better than the Flames of late but not by much.  They have gone 3-4-3 in their last 10.  They find themselves ten points out of a playoff spot at this point and will most certainly be hitting the fairways with the Flames as soon as the regular season ends.  There are no favorites in this one; it’s a very winnable game for the Flames.

THE LINE-UP

As always, thanks to www.dailyfaceoffs.com for the lines.

  • Hudler – Backlund – Stempniak
  • Bouma – Stajan – Galiardi
  • Colborne – Monahan – Byron
  • Westgarth – Street – McGrattan
  • Brodie – Giordano
  • Smid – Butler 
  • Wideman – O’Brien
  • Ramo

It was revealed yesterday morning that Miguel Cammalleri is suffering from a concussion and is not with the team on this mini road trip.  Hopefully he’s not out too long.  For one, he’s one of Calgary’s only offensive threats, which hasn’t been very apparent lately but still.  Also, his eminent trade will occur in the next two months and a long concussion could really kill the return that the Flames could have gotten or a deal altogether.

Backlund continues his hot role of late.  Backs has scored in back-to-back games and continues to improve each game. His ability to hang on to the puck has been very noticable over the past number of games.  After a very slow start in the points department, Backs has 5 goals and 6 assists (11 points) in his last 23 games.  Keep in mind the Flames didn’t score on goal in 6 of those 23 games.  The hope from the Nation and its readers is that Backs assumes the role of two-way dynamo that puts up 40-50 points per year.  He appears to be gaining some ground on becoming that player, finally.

Rook Rook Monahan continues to improve from his dreadful December.  He potted his 13th goal of the year last night and is now on pace for 27 goals over 82 games.  He won’t get that high as he was injured for a number of games and his production has slowed since the beginning of the season.  20 should be doable though.  20 goals in the NHL for a 19 year old is a pretty good feat.

The Flames haven’t had a rookie score like that since Dion put up 20 goals and 49 points in his rookie campaign in 2005-06.  Before that, it was Iginla putting up 21 goals in 1996-97, his rookie campaign.  Not too shabby if Monahan puts up 20.

Ramo, with his first NHL shutout last night, gets the call again tonight.

THE OPPONENTS

  • Spaling – Legwand – Smith
  • Hornqvist – Fisher – Wilson
  • Nystrom – Cullen – Hendricks
  • Clune – Gaustad – Stalberg
  • Weber – Josi
  • Klein – Ellis
  • Ekholm – Jones
  • Hutton

Looking at the Predators’ forwards I’m not sure you can confidently say they have the Flames beat there.  They have decent center depth but not even close to one elite forward in the whole bunch.The Preds’ defense, on the other hand, probably has a "slight" advantage over the Flames.  The back six features Olympian Shea Weber, Roman Josik, Rayn Ellis and Seth Jones among others.  That’s a pretty good group.

I’m looking forward to seeing first round selection Seth Jones tonight. David Poile, Nashville’s GM and U.S. Olympic Team GM, made a relatively serious bid to have the kid considered for the U.S Olympic team, stating he’s never seen a 19 year old play as well as he does.  Ultimately they decided he wasn’t there yet and wouldn’t take a spot of one of the many veteran bluelines the U.S. Committee had to choose from.  But I’m curious to see how he looks out there given Poile’s favorable comments.

Pekka Rinne is still rehabing a hip infection that took him out earlin the year.  It sounds like he’ll be back in a few weeks. So the Flames will see Carter Hutton who, like the Flames’ goalies, have been splitting starts with Marek Mazanec since the Rinne injury.

SUM IT UP

The Flames enter this one with three goals and two good efforts in their last two games.  The Preds have an edge on the backend but upfront, you could argue that the Flames have the edge.  It’s anybody’s game. Hopefuly the Flames can keep building off of the last two games and pull further and further away from that dreadful spell that consumed the team the last few weeks.  Playoffs are not a possibility for this club but good hockey games with goals is still something we would very much like to see.