FGD #39: Closing Out 2014 (7:30pm MT, SN One)

The past year has been pretty good to the Calgary Flames, all things considered. The team’s rebuild progressed from its infancy to the point where the Flames played spoiler to playoff teams last season and went on a great run late in the season. Overall, the Flames enter tonight’s game against Edmonton, their final game of 2014, with a 41-35-4 record over the calendar year.

And yes, they still consider themselves to be rebuilding. They probably will until they make the playoffs, whenever that happens.

Tonight’s game is interested on a number of levels. Calgary (20-15-3 on the season) hosts their most bitter historical rival, the Oilers (8-22-7 on the season) for the second time in five days. It’s the annual New Year’s Eve game. Everyone will have the end of the calendar year looming around them. The Flames desperately want to bank some points as they creep towards a playoff spot. The Oilers just want to avoid starting another losing streak as they creep towards relevancy.

The puck drops at 7:30pm MT on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. It’s the late game of a double-header, following a Toronto/Boston game at 5pm on Sportsnet West. There’s a chance that if the first game runs long, the start of the Flames game could be delayed slightly on Sportsnet West, so beware. Or just stick to Sportsnet One, if you get both.

THE FLAMES

Lines for tonight, via our pals at Daily Faceoff:

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Jonas Hiller makes his 24th start of the season for the Flames. He’s 12-10-2 this season with a 2.29 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and a .934 even-strength save percentage. He’s been on a roll of late, so it makes sense to park Karri Ramo on the bench for another game.

Josh Jooris returns after missing a few with an upper-body injury, and he bumps Mason Raymond to the press box and Joe Colborne to the wing. Both are entirely logical, smart decisions given how well Jooris has played and how poorly Raymond has of late.

Mikael Backlund skated with the main group again and coach Hartley noted he was progressing well. Backlund, Ladislav Smid and Sam Bennett remain on the sidelines.

The Flames are 16-8-3 all-time in New Year’s Eve games, not that it means anything at all.

THE OILERS

Lines, via Daily Faceoff!

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Ben Scrivens starts tonight after back-stopping the Oilers to their SECOND WIN IN THEIR LAST 22 GAMES. It’s been a long year up north. Season-long, he’s got a 6-13-5 record with a 3.10 goals against average, .895 save percentage and .902 even-strength save percentage.

Yikes.

The Oilers have made a few roster changes since we last saw them, adding Derek Roy (via trade from Nashville) and Mark Fraser (off waivers). I don’t hate either addition, as they both provide the Oilers with some depth, though I question if Roy adds the same necessary (and missing) physical aspect to the team that Fraser does.

Edmonton’s blueline is still a chasm of dread, though. I’m not sure if their bad goaltending is a product of bad defensive play or the other way around, but the Oilers give up way too many goals.

ELSEWHERE

Also today, the Adirondack Flames (19-13-2) host the Toronto Marlies (13-15-4) in Glens Falls at 3:30pm MT. The Baby Flames continue to be bolstered by the strong play of goaltender Joni Ortio (15-7-1, 2.59 GAA, .915 SV%), and anchored by their top line of Sven Baertschi (11 points), Bill Arnold (17 points) and Emile Poirier (19 points).

OUTDOOR FUN

Tomorrow, the NHL presents its annual Winter Classic in Washington, DC, between the Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Many current Flames have outdoor experience: Jonas Hiller (2014 Stadium Series), Mark Giordano (2011 Heritage Classic), Dennis Wideman (2010 Winter Classic), Matt Stajan (2011 Heritage Classic), Curtis Glencross (2011 Heritage Classic), Mason Raymond (2014 Winter Classic), Jiri Hudler (2009 Winter Classic), Brandon Bollig (2014 Stadium Series) and Deryk Engelland (2014 Stadium Series) have all played in NHL outdoor games.

Rookies Johnny Gaudreau and Josh Jooris both played in the Frozen Fenway event back when they were in college.

SUM IT UP

It’s round three of the Battle of Alberta tonight! The Calgary Flames can cap off a very strong 2014 calendar year AND cement a win in the 2014-15 edition of the Battle of Alberta with a win tonight.

And the two points will go a long, long way towards helping them achieve their 2015 resolution of making a return to the Stanley Cup playoffs.