The Calgary Flames complete their pre-Christmas schedule tonight in Los Angeles. Despite all the disappointment and frustration over their present eight-game winless streak (0-7-1), a lot of that apprehension would be eliminated with two points against the Los Angeles Kings.
There’s a few reasons for that.
First is the presence of former Flames coach/GM/mad scientist Darryl Sutter, who led the Flames to a win (and a few inches or a video review) away from the promised land, then went nuts trying to get back there with this team. Instead, he was fired and then lured to Hollywood to run the team as a coach – not a manager – and won two Stanley Cups in three years. If he had stayed in Calgary and declined the opportunity to be GM, maybe things could’ve been different.
Second, the Flames actually won the season series against the Kings last season.
The Flames have confidence against the Kings for this reason, but you also have to believe there’s a bit of jealousy over the fact that the Kings eked into the playoffs and WON THE STANLEY CUP, while the Flames beat them more often than not. That may be a fuel for some false hope about playoff success, but in the short-term here, it’s gotta really motivate the coaching staff and the on-ice leadership to stick it to the Kings once again.
Finally, the Flames have played reasonably well during these last two weeks. But they have one point to show for their last 8 games. Mistakes, even tiny ones, are ending up in their own net. Heck, they SCORED ON THEMSELVES last game, in a game against a divisional opponent that was decided by a goal. They need to get some swagger back, and they won’t do that unless they start getting rewarded for mostly-good performances.
The Kings enter this game three points up on Calgary for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They do also have a game in hand. For a few from the other side, check out our frenemies at The Royal Half.
The puck drops just after 8:30pm MT and you can catch the game on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Embroiled in an eight-game winless stretch, the Flames have shaken things up by starting the same goalie who started the last two losses (Jonas Hiller) and the only line-up change is because of an injury to Josh Jooris. I like Granlund and Gaudreau together, so that could be a nice line for this group tonight.
The Flames desperately need two points. They have four days off after this, and then a date with the Edmonton Oilers. They do not want to be on the verge of a ten-game losing streak when Edmonton rolls into town. Nothing good will come of it. There’s no tomorrow – and four days off – so they should be a desperate group tonight.
And they’ll need to be.
Lines, via Daily Faceoff:
The Kings are about a .500 team over recent games – they’ve won two in a row – but they’re also one of the NHL’s best home teams. They’re 13-4-1 at Staples Center, which is gross (Calgary’s 8-6-2 at the ‘Dome). They have a well-balanced line-up and up-front, you could probably just pick names out of a bingo tumbler and find four pretty decent lines out of it.
While Calgary boasts arguably the NHL’s best defensive pairing in T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano (aka “Bro-dano”), the Kings have Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty (aka Duzzin) who are also really great. If the Kings have a hole, it’s their blueline, which falls off similarly as Calgary’s does after the top pairing. But in terms of match-ups, the Kings have the benefit of guys that are not complete plugs, so you can try to isolate one or two guys, but they have enough depth and guys that can put the biscuit in the basket that it’s really tough to eliminate their offense completely.
SUM IT UP
All the Calgary Flames want for Christmas is two <expletive> points.
They will need to play their best game in weeks, with as few mistakes in their own zone as they can muster, to get a win over the Los Angeles Kings in the Staples Center. But if they can do that, Santa may bring them something even more valuable than a win – confidence that they can play well and be rewarded – because right now, this group seems awfully fragile and just waiting for something to go wrong.