pic via Matt DeTurck
One of the benefits of the NHL’s re-alignment is getting to see teams like the Rangers with far more regularity. I for one am all for anything that reduces the number of requisite Flames – Coyotes or Flames – Wild games and I am sure I am not alone on that one.
Tonight, everybody’s favourite group of try-harderest, never-say-dieingest, work-ethicest, hockey players will face off against the red-hot New York Rangers who come into tonight looking for a season-high, sixth straight win.
Check out the lineups and preview after the jump
THE FIGHTIN’ FLAMES
The Flames, who will be wearing their slightly less cursed (but still rather unremarkable) third jerseys tonight, have a few minor tweaks from the lineup that lost to Anaheim on Wednesday. Here is the roster thanks to our bosom buddies at Daily Faceoff:
Cammalleri – Backlund – Byron
Glencross – Stajan – Hudler
Agostino – Monahan – Colborne
Westgarth – Bouma – McGrattan
Giordano – Brodie
Butler – Russell
Smid – Wotherspoon
Sitting out tonight is T.J Galiardi and Ben Hanowski in favour of dressing Westgarth again. I suppose now that Westgarth is a one man offensive force of nature (two points in his last three games!) this decision makes sense.
Kenny Agostino is back into the lineup tonight, back playing on a line with Colborne and Monahan. Agostino has looked decent at times with the Flames but he is clearly still getting adjusted to NHL speed. In the game against Nashville, Agostino generated four shots on net which is what we were told to expect from him after leaving Yale. Hopefully, Agostino can continue to generate that kind of offense and maybe even pot one. Especially because of this:
— Aaron Vickers (@AAVickers) March 28, 2014
Colborne was the recipient of a fair bit of praise on the TSN telecast of the Anaheim game and looked good at times working along the wall and using his size and reach. I wouldn’t say that I am 100% sold on Colborne by any stretch (his 46.8 CF% doesn’t exactly sing his praises for instance) but he has looked drastically better than he did around Christmas when I wasn’t even sure what his future with the Flames would be outside of a shootout specialist. His move to the wing has clearly helped his game and the more he is able to maintain possession along the wall in the offensive zone the more valuable he will be to the club moving forward.
Also, Monahan is pretty cold right now. He has just two assists in ten games and hasn’t scored a goal in almost a month. I know Flames fans are all waiting with bated breath for his 20th and hopefully it comes soon because it would be an awesome cap on a very good rookie season. I am not too worried about his play of late because he seems to be generating offence lately with 11 shots in his last three games. Perhaps this is simply his SH% regressing towards the mean. However, when the Rangers and Flames played last on December 15th, Monahan did score so maybe tonight will be the night:
Bob McKenzie also mentioned on Wednesday that the Flames are comfortable with Ramo and Ortio in the net moving forward. If this was the indeed the case, I would be very pleased but I am not convinced that Burke isn’t dreaming up a big fat contract to a free agent tender. I think Ramo’s play this season has been good enough to earn him the chance at being a full-time starter and his play since returning from injury has been very, very good. Plus, he has a super cool Poe mask, so that has to count for something right?
KING HENRIK’S TEAM
Here is NYR’s lineup tonight thanks to our buds at Daily Faceoff:
Nash – Stepan – St. Louis
Hagelin – Richards – Pouliot
Zuccarello – Brassard – J.T Miller
Boyle – Moore – Dorsett
McDonagh – Girardi
Stralman – Staal
Diaz – Klein
The Rangers have won five games in a row and are three points up on Philly for second in the horribly names Metropolitan division. However, Philly has two games at hand on the Rangers so this game does mean something in terms of divisional seeding.
All throughout their roster, the Rangers are… solid. Not, ‘beat Boston or Pittsburgh’ good, but solid. Their third line of Zuccarello and Brassard are sneaky good, with Zuccarello tied for the team lead in points with 50. Not many would have expected this kind of season from the skilled Norseman heading into the season. Their top-six group of forwards is pretty respectable, especially that top line of Nash, Stepan, and Benedict Arnold.
On the back end the Rangers are pretty strong as well with six reliable defenders that can all play 15 minutes a night or more. To be honest, I am not sure what to make of the roster, only that I remember when the Flames had Stralman and Stefan Kronwall both in training camp and somehow we let Stralman go, kept Kronwall, sent him to Europe and was never heard from again… That was weird. Also, let’s never speak of St. Louis as a Flame okay?
The Rangers also learned that they will be without Chris Kreider for likely the remainder of the reason after he underwent hand surgery this morning. That’s a tough break for Kreider who has had a tumultuous start to his NHL career after debuting with the Rangers in the playoffs a few years back.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE LOTTERY
Firstly, it seems like any mention of the draft lottery here the last couple weeks at FN draws a shocking amount of vitriol from concerned Flames faithful in the comments section. Look, facts are facts, even with the recent string of good play, the Flames are still fifth worst in the NHL so keeping tabs on their spot in the draft lottery is natural. That is why the draft is structured the way it is, to reward bad teams. Bad teams like our loveable, hard-working, gritty, shot-blockingest Calgary Flames.
This doesn’t mean that the Flames aren’t playing better, because their play since the Olympic break has been dramatically better. As BoL pointed out in the last post-game, good enough to draw praise from some of our mortal enemies. However, none of this improvement changes the reality that the Flames are six games below .500 and looking at top-five pick again. We all like the wins, no doubt, but perhaps it would be wise to stow the venom for the tanking side of the argument. We all want the same thing.
The Flames are one point up on the Islanders who play on Saturday against New Jersey. The Flames seem to be comfortably in fifth-last for the time being with a five point cushion on the Ottawa Senators. Wait, the OTTAWA SENATORS? What the hell happened there this season?!
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?
It’s always fun seeing some of the big Eastern conference teams play so I’m sure this game will be interesting for that reason alone. The Flames have put together a string of games where they have played very well, with some of the games (and even wins) coming against very good opponents. Hopefully they can continue this tonight against the Rangers.
Puck Drops at 7PM MT on SNET – Flames