–via Michael Cummo Photography
Tonight, the Calgary Flames (24-31-7) host the New York Islanders (24-32-9) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The game is an important one in the reverse standings. If the Flames win in regulation, they leap frog the Islanders into 25th overall (no good). If the Flames lose in regulation and Florida beats the Sabres , the Flames end up tied for the 28th spot overall (excellent). The night will no doubt be special as former Flame great, Joe Nieuwendyk, will be honored in the Flames ‘Forever a Flame’ program. Puck drops at 7 pm MT (or whenever the ceremony ends).
Nieuwendyk, one of my favorites since I could walk, was a significant contributor to the Calgary Flames for the better part of eight years. Joe was drafted in the 2nd round (27th overall) in the 1985 draft by the Flames after putting up 45 points in 29 games his first year at Cornell University. He would play two more years at Cornell, putting up significant points in his time there, while playing a few games with the Flames in the 1986-97 season as well. His official rookie campaign was the 1987-88 season. Joe scored 51 goals, 41 assists and 92 points (all club rookie records). At the time, Joe became only the second rookie in NHL history to score at least 50 goals in a season. Mike Boss was the first with 53 in 1977-78. Nieuwendyk went on to win the Calder Memorial Trophy for the league’s best rookie in 1987-88.
Joe scored another 51 goals in his second year, to go along with 82 points and was a significant piece of the 1989 Cup Winning team. Joe continued on with the Flames for five and a half years. In total, he amassed 610 points (1.07 ppg) with the Flames.
Joe entered the 1995-96 season very unhappy with his contract status. After refusing a three-year, $6 million dollar offer from the Flames, he was traded. Ironically, Nieuwendyk was traded for the young up and coming Jarome Iginla who would go on to be, not so arguably, the greatest player in Flames franchise history. A fair trade if ever there was.
Tonight, contract issues that persisted 18 years ago will be put to rest and Joe Niewendyk’s #25 will be honored. Although it’s not being retired, it’s assumed unless you’ve got an NHLE over 70 coming into the league, you better not think of touching that #25 these days … that’s Joe’s.
The Flames have been playing pretty decent of late. They are 8-4-0 in their last 12. Last time out, the Flames dominated the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday (trade deadline day). The Islanders, well, they’re in a way. John Tavares, the heart and soul and 50% of the talent, went down at the Olympics and he’s out for the rest of the season. Thomas Vanek, unwilling to re-sign with Islanders, was traded to Montreal at the deadline. The Islanders are 3-6-1 in their last ten. Last night, the Islanders gave up a late two-goal lead to the Oilers, one of only four teams worst than them, and went on to lose in OT. A trainwreck of a season for the Islanders to say the least.
Via the always awesome www.dailyfaceoffs.com
- Cammalleri – Backlund – Bouma
- Galiardi – Monahan – Colborne
- Byron – Granlund – Reinhart
- Hanowski – Knight – McGrattan
- Giordano – Brodie
- Smid – Wotherspoon
- Russell – Butler
Those are some different looking lines from even a week ago. Hudler and Wideman both went down with injuries on Wednesday against the Flames. Stajan appears to still be out with personal reasons (hopefully positive personal reasons there) and the Flames had a couple bodies go down earlier in the week. As a result, the line-up features half of the Abbottsford Heat’s line-up.
Granlund will center Reinhart and Byron today. I really like the looks of that line. Granlund, who has looked very good since being called up three games ago, has some chemistry with Reinhart and when you add in Byron’s speed and tenacity they could be surprisingly dangerous.
Corban Knight has been touted as a very reliable guy in his own end which, from what I saw on Wednesday, he seemed to be just that. As well, he was absolutely superb on draws in his first game out (61%). He’ll need to win a lot of draws tonight to keep that 4th line above water but I really liked what I saw from him in his first game. I’d say he’s the third or fourth center on this club come Fall.
Wotherspoon will get his first taste of the NHL tonight. By all accounts, he earned the call-up with some pretty reliable play in his own end down at the farm. If you don’t notice him unless consciously looking for him that’s probably a good thing.
Ortio, who was great on Wednesday, should be in the pipes again tonight.
- Grabner – Nielsen – Okposo
- Bailey – Nelson – Clutterbuck
- Lee – Strome – McDonald
- Martin – Cizikas – Halmo
- de Haan – Hamonic
- Hickey – Visnovsky
- Strait – Donovan
SUM IT UP
Tonight is the second and final match-up between these two teams this year. The Nieuwendyk celebration will certainly give some importance to the game as the celebration will be a memorable one. The only importance of the actual game however is how it affects the 2014 draft, three months from now. With the amount of kids the Flames have up, this could go either way. The Flames have been on a hot role of late so I’ll give them the edge. Win or lose, it’s all gravy when you’re nowhere near playoff contention and instead vying for draft position.
Share some thoughts and memories about Nieuwendyk in the comments if you got ‘um.