It’s a tale of two cities in The District tonight, as the Calgary Flames (7-4-2) head to America’s capital city to tangle with the Washington Capitals (4-5-2). The puck drops at 5pm MT and you can catch all the action on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
These teams last met last week in Calgary, with some timely goals from Joel Ward pacing the Caps to a 3-1 win over the Flames. Since that game, Washington’s gone 0-4-0 and Calgary’s gone 2-0-1. Strange, eh? The visitors are hoping they can string together yet another strong 60-minute effort…and that Washington’s skid continues unabated for at least one more evening.
The big news tonight is the illness suffered by rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau, who has become the straw that stirs Calgary’s offensive mix. He’s speedy, he’s clutch, he’s dynamic, and he’s a game-time decision with what sounds like the flu (thanks to Roger Millions on Twitter for the scoop).
If he goes, here’s the line-up via Daily Faceoff:
If Gaudreau doesn’t play, Bouma jumps up to that left wing slot, Jooris slides over to center and Brian McGrattan returns to the line-up. Deryk Engelland returns from a one-game absence at the expense of Rapha Diaz, while Jonas Hiller makes his fourth consecutive start (and ninth of the season).
While Washington’s hit the skids a bit, Calgary’s improved of late. The reason? Here’s some data from War on Ice regarding Calgary’s overall play since October 18 – they have a 4-1-2 record in that span.
Well, two: LUCK (a 104 PDO is incredibly high) and improved possession play. Before October 18, the Flames were 101.56 PDO and 44.56 Corsi%. Why did I choose October 18? Johnny Gaudreau sat in the press box on October 17 in Columbus. Since then, he has a 53.3 CorsiFor% (though it’s just 46.1% at 5-on-5). Before he got parked, Gaudreau had a woeful 35 CorsiFor% (and 36% at 5-on-5).
The Flames have points in 8 of their last 10 games, which is great, but remember this is a team that’s
Bottom Three in Puck Possession
(with 43.22% CorsiFor at even-strength) and is being propped up by goaltending and timely goals. At some point, this will swing the other direction.
The team from D.C. is free-fallin’ down the Eastern Conference standings, having lost four in a row since beating Calgary last week.
Here are lines from morning skate via Daily Faceoff:
The Capitals are the Gallant to Calgary’s Goofus in many ways – a good possession team with more losses than wins who are seemingly panicking and shuffling lines in an effort to get something going. As I mentioned in the last Flames/Capitals preview, the Capitals have strong depth and might not boast any elite-level talent beyond its top line, they have a balanced attack that can roll four lines.
Now if only they can get some pucks in the net.
Braden Holtby gets the start. He was good against Calgary but not tested all that much. By sheer coincidence, that win was both his last and the team’s last.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are becoming road warriors, with this being their eighth road game this season. They’ve already won five on the road, and for a team that’s utterly struggled away from home ice over the past few years, that’s pretty big.
Can they add another win to their total tonight against a Washington team that’s reeling and desperately seeking points? Perhaps, but if Gaudreau isn’t in the line-up, it’ll be an uphill battle for them.