The first quarter of the regular season will be complete tonight with the 20th game of the Calgary Flames 2014-15 campaign. They host the Anaheim Ducks.
And first place in the Pacific Division will be up for grabs.
The Flames (11-6-2) host the Anaheim Ducks (11-4-4). Both teams are playing their 20th game. Anaheim has 26 points to Calgary’s 24. If Calgary wins in regulation, they will be tied with Anaheim with 26 points and have more wins (12), which is the tie-breaker.
Meaningful hockey at the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight, and the game will be doubly meaningful because it’s Peter Maher Night at the rink, honouring the long-time (and recently-retired) voice of the Calgary Flames.
If you’re going to the game, BE ON TIME, as they have a tribute to the Hall of Famer to kick off at 7pm. Puck drop will be around 7:20ish, and you can catch all the action on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
The Flames are playing for first place tonight. No, really.
(Aside: LOL Edmonton.)
It’s bit surreal, to be honest, but the Flames are an extremely loose group right now. Remember that stretch last December where they couldn’t bury a shot (or hit water if they fell from a boat, to be honest)? This stretch has been the opposite, in the sense that instead of waiting for something to go wrong late in games, they figure something will go right – whether it be a key save, a good shift from Giordano r Brodie, or one of the young forwards scoring a timely goal.
It cannot last forever, but they’re smartly not asking a lot of questions and taking the points without complaint. Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Let’s all pretend Bollig is in the image, okay? He’s fourth line winger tonight.
Jonas Hiller gets the start against his old team – he’s 8-4-1 with a 2.30 goals against average and a .922 save percentage so far. David Jones (upper body) slots out for Devin Setoguchi, while Brian McGrattan slots in for Max Reinhart. Otherwise, few changes to the line-up. Injured Flames Michael Ferland (concussion/conditioning), Mason Raymond (shoulder), Matt Stajan (knee), Mikael Backlund (abdominal) and Joe Colborne (wrist/hand/appendage) remain out. Of these guys, coach Hartley indicated that Ferland is the closest.
Could he play on the homestand?: “You never know.”
The key for the Flames? Play their game. They’ve relied on speed all season long, and they’ll need to continue to utilize their speed against a skilled Ducks team.
When the Flames had a slew of injuries, they kept on winning. The Anaheim Ducks probably are quite envious of the Flames right now.
Lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Based on morning skate, it appears that Frederik Anderson starts – he was first off the ice.
On the injured list for the Ducks: Ben Lovejoy, Devante Smith-Pelly, Francois Beauchemin, Mark Fistric, John Gibson and Dany Heatley. The Ducks are a beaten-up, flu (and mumps)-riddled group. Beauchemin is with the team right now, but won’t play tonight.
This defense is pretty thin – by Ducks standards – so the Flames won’t have a better chance than tonight (or next Tuesday in Anaheim) to gain some points on a division rival.
BONUS: MAHER STUFF
I was down at the ‘Dome this morning for and they officially renamed the Good Guy Award – given to the player who’s the most patient and out-going with the media – to the Peter Maher Award. And now they have a really sweet-looking actual award to present. (Joe Colborne won the award last season.)
And here’s what will be on the lapels of the assembled media this evening.
SUM IT UP
It’s the biggest game of the season for the Flames, as they get their first crack at the Pacific Division’s measuring-stick: the California teams. We’ll know a lot more about how good this team really is soon enough; tonight’s game will be a good first big test for them.