FGD #18: Hosting the (Arizona) Coyotes

The Calgary Flames are back in town after seemingly forever, following a lengthy five-game road trip that took them to the far, far southeastern tip of the NHL map. They went 3-2-0 and sit with a 9-6-2 record after 17 games. In theory, they could go on a losing streak and still be at .500 after 20 games. After 20 games last year, they were deep underwater – albeit because of some really bad injuries to key guys like Mark Giordano.

Kicking off their five-game homestand is a visit from the Arizona Coyotes, tonight at the ‘Dome (7pm MT; Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan). And this homestand finally begins the Flames sojourn into the non-Canadian portion of the Pacific Division.

We’ll have a better idea of what this group is after the homestand (and this month) are complete.

THE FLAMES

Coming home after a second successful (above-.500) road trip, the Flames are hoping to keep their good mojo going. They’re coming off a game they didn’t quite like their performance in against the Carolina Hurricanes, which resulted in a loss.

However, the Flames have a sterling record coming off of losses this year, so the mindset – right now – is that they’re going to be able to keep things going.

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David Jones has that bug that’s been working around the organization (both NHL and AHL), so he’s a game-time decision. It’s a shame, because he’s been quite good this year thus far. Sven Baertschi returns to the line-up. Brandon Bollig is sitting tonight, so presumably if Jones is good to go, Devin Setoguchi sits. Bollig sits for the first time this year. McGrattan had previously sat for the last five games and for 10 times in the last 11 games.

Still out (and on the IR): Michael Ferland (concussion), Mikael Backlund (abdominal), Mason Raymond (shoulder), Matt Stajan (knee), Joe Colborne (wrist) and non-roster injury Sam Bennett (shoulder).

The Flames’ schedule has been so road-heavy, it’ll be interesting to see how Bob Hartley deploys his forward lines. I’ve really been impressed with how Sean Monahan has handled himself being thrust into the #1 center role rather than being eased into it. I’m curious how he’s used in particular.

Jonas Hiller gets his 12th start of the season. He’s 7-4-1 with a 2.23 goals against and .925 save percentage. His numbers are gradually tumbling back down to Earth after that hellacious start he got off to.

THE COYOTES

They’re 6-8-2 and have lost two straight. They’ve been off since Tuesday, when they lost to Dallas in Phoenix.

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Presumably Mike Smith gets the start. He’s 4-8-0 with a 3.29 goals against average and a .895 save percentage. He’s been not-great this year, but his numbers are bound to improve over a long season. But they just haven’t yet.

There’s conflicting reports about Gormley being out and David Schlemko being in, but I’m not 100% sure yet. If Gormley plays, it’ll be the first game that the 2010 first rounder has played in Calgary – he was chosen by the Coyotes with the pick they acquired in the Olli Jokinen deal. The first one.

SUM IT UP

Calgary’s battles in the meat of the Pacific Division kick off tonight with a date with the Coyotes. Expect a tight-checking game with few scoring chances. However, if the Flames can use their speed and get the Arizona defenders chasing, the game could open up quite a bit.