The Calgary Flames hit the road tonight for the first game of a four-game eastern road trip that’ll take them through the outhouses and penthouses of the National Hockey League.
First up? Tonight, the Flames (17-9-2) visit the Toronto Maple Leafs (14-9-3) at Air Canada Centre.
The Flames have won seven of their last ten, but had a four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks. The Leafs have won three of their last four and five of their last six, finally getting their legs going after a three game losing streak that had everyone and their dog crying about blowing the team up.
The puck drops at 5:30pm MT and the game is on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
For a view from the other side, check out the coverage from our fine eastern colleagues at The Leafs Nation.
The Flames begin a four game roadie tonight. They lost in regulation to San Jose on Saturday, so they’ve still not lost back-to-back games in regulation. Let’s see if that continues tonight. Also, they may want to rack up points now while they can; they face Pittsburgh (in the back-half of a back-to-back) and Chicago later on this trip.
The local hockey heroes have been quite good (a) on the road (going 9-5-0 thus far), but also (b) against the East (going a respectable 6-4-2 against the NHL’s lesser conference). If they want any chance at a playoff spot, the Flames need to keep both of these trends going, particularly given that their schedule is going to get a LOT tougher from here on out.
Lines via Daily Faceoff
Jonas Hiller gets the start tonight. He’s been off for a bit with Karri Ramo playing so well, but he’s back in. He’s 9-6-1 with a 2.49 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Presumably Deryk Engelland slots back in for Raphael Diaz, who was burned on the second Sharks goal, Mason Raymond slots in for Michael Ferland, Brandon Bollig goes in for Brian McGrattan and Sven Baertschi goes back to the minors.
Former Leaf Mason Raymond returns in Toronto, which is neat, I suppose. The Flames also boast former Leaf Matt Stajan (who’s playing) as well as former Leaf Joe Colborne, who is on the trip and expected to play at some point.
UPDATE: Per the traveling media in Toronto, Ferland is IN for Bollig on the fourth line. By all accounts no Baertschi at practice (but that’s not 100% confirmed), so McGrattan, Diaz and Bollig are your scratches most likely.
Lines via Daily Faceoff
Sounds like Jonathan Bernier, who started in Toronto’s win against Vancouver, starts tonight. He’s 10-6-3, with a 2.72 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.
The Leafs boast one of the weirder defensive groups in the NHL – I think Cody Franson is the best one of ’em – and a forward group with a strange pay structure but some good pieces. If they only had a plan and some patience, they could mold it into something really good.
In a weird schedule quirk, this game is only the third the Leafs have played against a Pacific Division team this season. They’re 1-1 against the Pacific and are 10-7-0 at home.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are on their third road trip of the season and, like two of the others, it’s an eastern trip! That means a week full of 5pm games and being able to do other things with your evenings.
But it also means some games against teams the Flames rarely play and desperately need to rack up points against to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt. After all, there’s no better place to start another winning streak than in Toronto.