After an improbable road trip that’s already seen them break even points-wise, the Calgary Flames head into the great state of Ohio – now again home of Lebron James – for the fifth game of their six-game trip, this time against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus is the home of the cool cannon, the former home of an excellent mascot named Boomer (a civil war cannon with a jaunty mustache), and a pretty good hockey club that’s really progressed over the past few years. Heck, they made the playoffs last year and nearly upset the Penguins.
The game should be the first career NHL game for Josh Jooris and the latest edition of the “Can you top that?” series between Flames netminders Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller.
Can the Flames continue their winning ways? I would’ve say “no” flatly a week ago, but I’m gonna shrug and say “Maybe” now. The game goes early tonight – 5pm MT – and you can catch it on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
The local hockey heroes are 3-2-0 somehow after beating Chicago on Wednesday by a 2-1 score in overtime (and Nashville 3-2 in a shootout the night before). They’ve shuffled the deck slightly, putting David Jones on the injured reserve and bringing up camp standout Josh Jooris from Adirondack. If he keeps his training camp number, he’ll be the first man to don #86 in Flames history.
Lines, (via Daily Faceoff):
Hudler – Monahan – Jooris
Glencross – Backlund – Byron
Raymond – Colborne – Bouma
Bollig – Stajan – McGrattan
Giordano – Brodie
Russell – Wideman
Smid – Diaz
Setoguchi out, Jooris in. Gaudreau out, Bouma in. No other “shuffling,” as it appears Bob Hartley likes his tough minutes line and his fourth line. Ramo gets his third start of the season, and will have to provide his response to Jonas Hiller’s excellent game in Chicago. Bouma wore a full cage at morning skate, per Derek Wills, Randy Sportak and Kristen Odland (who are in Ohio with the team), but he reportedly will slot back in despite his facial injuries.
Gaudreau does sit, but recall that T.J. Brodie sat when Bob Hartley first got to Calgary. There’s probably a plan in place here, so nobody panic. He’s 21. He’s played 6 games ever. He’s learning. It’s less encouraging than if he’d already scored a zillion goals, but let’s keep our wits about us.
The Flames PK has been pretty great lately, despite giving up the lone goal against Chicago’s scary PP. Their PP still needs some work.
THE BLUE JACKETS
The Jackets boast a 2-1-0 record and have been off since they lost to Dallas on Tuesday. Once again, Calgary faces a team that’s rested and been waiting for them at home for a couple days.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Foligno – Johansen – Atkinson
Hartnell – Anisimov – Wennberg
Calvert – Letestu – Skille
Tropp – Chaput – Boll
Johnson – Savard
Erixon – Wisniewski
Tyutin – Prout
The Jackets boast a pretty stacked top six and two Flames draft picks – Tim Erixon and Curtis “McBackup” McElhinney – on the back end. Their defense is arguably their big weakness, but they have superb starting goaltending and a pretty strong forward attack that only really falls off at the fourth line. Jared Boll isn’t amazing. Expect to see lots of Backlund out against Ryan Johansen’s line tonight.
A nice mix of youth here, including recent draft picks Marko Dano (who’s not playing tonight) and Alexander Wennberg, integrated in with their established group. It’s almost like GM Jarmo Kekkalainen knows what he’s doing, eh?
SUM IT UP
The Flames have already exceeded expectations for this road trip – it has not been a Widowmaker as I expected it to be – which probably means they’re a confident, loose group of hockey players. The Blue Jackets aren’t quite as stiff a test as Chicago or St. Louis, but expect the team to come out of the gate trying to get even more points on this trip.
Whether they do or don’t will depend on if they have another strong 60-minute effort like they did against Nashville. We can already assume they’ll get good goaltending.