FGD: A Royal Rematch

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A couple weeks back, the Calgary Flames hosted the Los Angeles Kings in their first game back from the Olympics. That was a rusty Flames team that couldn’t solve goalie Jonathan Quick, and lost 2-0. Since then, the team’s been rather energized by a bunch of recalls.

The pesky Flames boast eight rookies right now – Joni Ortio, Sean Monahan, Joe Colborne, Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Tyler Wotherspoon, Ben Hanowski and Corban Knight. While Abbotsford’s line-up is decimated, but at least the organization is able to actually evaluate guys at the NHL level, playing against NHL teams fighting for their playoff lives. (And Edmonton.)

Now the Kings are back, and the Flames should be motivated to prove that they can score a goal – or even beat – the Kings, who played the night before up in Shelbyville.

THE LOCAL BOYS

Your lines for tonight, based on practice and via your besties at DailyFaceoff.com:

Cammmalleri – Backlund – Bouma
Reinhart – Granlund – Byron
Galiardi – Monahan – Colborne
Hanowski – Knight – McGrattan

Giordano – Brodie
Russell – Butler
Smid – Wotherspoon

Ortio

Flames not playing: Stajan (personal), Westgarth (healthy), Glencross (almost healthy), Ramo (knee), Jones (upper body), Wideman (upper body), Hudler (upper body). Per Bob Hartley, Westgarth and Glencross are both really close and will likely play this week, so expect Ben Hanowski to be back in the Lower Mainland soon. (And goodness knows, the Heat could use him.)

Keep an eye on that Reinhart/Granlund/Byron line. Granlund has arguably been the team’s most dangerous offensive player, while Byron’s been solid since his mid-season recall. And I’m also curious to see how well Knight can do with his linemates, though I hope at some point they flip him onto another line for comparsion’s sake – we’ve seen many a talented player get dragged into the muck because of their placement on the fourth line of this team.

Ortio gets his fifth NHL start. In 4 previous games, he’s 2-2-0 with a 2.03 goals against average and .916 save percentage. Granted, sample size, but he’s best on the team in GAA and save percentage. But note: at even-strength, he’s got a slightly worse save percentage at .902 than Reto Berra did (.903). I wouldn’t expect to see Joey MacDonald start much, if at all, down the stretch.

THE ROYAL INVADERS

The Los Angeles Kings played last night, beating the Edmonton Oilers by a 4-2 score. They’ve won seven straight, including a 2-0 victory in Calgary on February 27. This is the final game of a three-game western Canada trip for LA.

Lines, via DailyFaceoff:

Gaborik – Kopitar – Williams
Toffoli – Richards – Carter
King – Stoll – Brown
Clifford – Lewis – Nolan

Muzzin – Doughty
Voynov – Regehr
Mitchell – Martinez

Jones

The Kings didn’t do a full skate today, so we’re guessing somewhat that their lines won’t change that much. Their extra bodes are Matt Greene and Tanner Pearson. There’s also a chance that Jordan Nolan is unavailable for the Kings. He had a phone hearing this afternoon for his sucker-punch on Edmonton’s Jesse Joensuu last night, but as of this writing there had been no official word on his status for tonight.

The Kings have been galvanized by the deadline day addition of Marian Gaborik, who’s still a dangerous player and adds depth. This club’s biggest asset is their size, which arguably is why the Flames has trouble with them – they’re both bigger and better than Calgary, so the locals really have to out-work them to have a fighting chance.

Upside? The Kings played last night and may be looking past this game towards the plane ride home to sunny SoCal. Former Hitmen netminder Martin Jones likely makes his first career NHL start in Calgary, and his first appearance on Saddledome ice in nearly four years.

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

The Kings sit snugly in third place in the Pacific Division, 11 points up on the next team. According to Sports Club Stats, they have a 99.2% chance of making the post-season. Calgary sits snugly in 13th in the West, 15 points or so out of a playoff spot, with a 0.02% chance of the playoffs. (Sports Club Stats seems to predict that Calgary finishes the year with between 72 and 77 points.)

This is merely “a game” for each team in terms of post-season implications.

SUM IT UP

It’s game 65 for your Calgary Flames. They’re one game under .500 at home and have a shot to even things up with a win tonight. But they face a stiff test in a really good Kings squad with a great deal of momentum.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Although in principle I am against dressing face-punchers in the line-up, at this point of the season it won’t bother me to see McGrattan and Westgarth on the 4th line. 2 reasons – could improve draft position & the Heat need bodies! Might as well give Knight top line Abby minutes vs. 4th line Flames minutes

    • SmellOfVictory

      Knight is the guy I’d be least concerned about leaving on the 4th line, outside of Hanowski. He’s relatively old for a prospect and his skillset is suited to the bottom six.

  • When Ramo comes back, do you send Ortio down to get top minutes in Abby or do you reward him with more time with the big club (and let him ride the pine a bit)? Or do you send MacDonald back down and hope no one picks him up?

    Personally, based on his play to date, I think the kid belongs up here but I think it would do him more good to get the big minutes in the AHL and bolster their playoff run. It would also be nice to get the guys on the Heat into the mindset that the playoffs are the place to be so they can bring it to the Flames in due course.

    • piscera.infada

      I think it all depends on how he’s playing when Ramo comes back. These next three games (LA, ANA, DAL) will be a huge test of his game and his development thus far. If he plays well (or even takes a step forward), I think you let Ramo back him up for a while, and send Orts back for the playoffs. No ones picking MacBackup up off waivers, and someone does, then you don’t have to worry about your AHL goalie situation that much – it also sounds likely that Gillies decides to go pro at the end of his year, and given Providence, that could be sooner than later. Thus, for the AHL playoffs you likely see Ortio/Gillies, Ortio/Roy, or Ortio/MacBackup.

    • BitGeek

      Or do you send MacDonald back down and hope no one picks him up?

      No one bothered to pick him up the last time the Flames sent him down, and that was before he lost an AHL starting gig to a first-year North American starter. I would be absolutely astonished if someone took him off waivers. Like, it would literally knock my socks off.

      That said, I’d rather they sent Ortio down so he could carry the Heat into the playoffs. He’s had his cup of coffee in the NHL, and looks to be getting another start tonight.

    • BitGeek

      My view is that you keep Ortio up with the Flames…..2 reasons

      1) He is already getting top minutes with the Flames and valuable development for the future

      2) The Heat are a development team for the Flames…not visa versa!
      As long as the kid is not getting bomb shelled up here he will be developing at the NHL level and gaining confidence.

      Send him down when the Flames season is over provided the Heat are still active in the playoffs.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    for what its worth, i just had a comical run in with a leaf fan. he told me the leafs were 11 games over 500. i took a piece of paper and wrote down the number 66, for simplicity as the leafs have played 65 games and preceded to ask what is half of 66. here is where it gets funny, half of 66 is still 33, so how or another this mensa member told me that it isnt, and the other 2 columns in the standing dont factor into the standings.the leafs are 34 23 4 4 therefore they are assured a spot lol.

    • BitGeek

      I don’t like the idea of tanking and don’t think the players would find it emotionally rewarding either, not that they’re being paid for that, but still.

      @ChinookArch – that would be my preference too. You can accomplish that by playing the hell out of Ramo and leaving MacDonald on the bench.

      @PI – I still think you do have to worry about someone claiming this guy off of waivers … cough, cough..Snow..cough, cough… (if only because it’s crazy). If it happened, and I agree it shouldn’t, ever, it would leave the Flames organization a little short on goalies for the time being.

      For the record, I don’t see any reason for the Flames to lure Gillies into the organization at the end of this college season. He can still learn at Providence and delaying him will help with asset management 2 – 4 years down the road. If he’s leaving Providence no matter what, that’s a different story.

      • piscera.infada

        I wasn’t at all saying lure Gillies out of college. I had just heard rumblings that it was likely – you carry a college team on your back for two years, you’re one of best current goalie prospects out there, why not take a stab at turning pro? I mean, I would certainly not be at all displeased if he decides to go back, but there is a certain attraction for a goalie that knows the faster he turns pro, the faster he gets a chance to be an NHL goalie – we all know when he does make the decision, he’s only a good stretch of AHL time away from a call up.

        • Nick24

          Interesting…I had heard the opposite in that Burke is trying to convince him to finish out his college career. Regardless a good kid with lots of potential and it won’t hurt him to play another year in College in my view.

  • WaIter White

    Granlund is just another flash in the pan. Don’t forget, Sven “Bust”-schi got 3 goals in 5 games, now we’d be lucky if he cracked the top 6 in Abby.

      • RedMan

        “Maybe that means Reto Berra can fetch the Flames JV?”

        Am thinking most would agree getting Virtanen with a second pick would be a coup..but using our #1 pick would likely not be good value (aka Jank).

        • EugeneV

          At between #’s 4 – 8 I agree, but what do people think about trading down if we are outside the top 3 which would equate to being outside the top 8 in last years draft.

          Maybe trading down and hopefully picking up Fleury in the first round and Virtanen etc in the 2nd and getting maybe an extra 2nd rounder this year or maybe even an extra first rounder next year?

          Ideally Buffalo elects to take NYI’s first rounder this year and we can offer Snow our first in 2014 for his first in 2015 and Ryan Pulock? HaHaHa

    • piscera.infada

      I’m sayin’! I saw the Hitmen-Prince Albert game at the dome about a month back, and it was a horrible game for PA, but Draisaitl still stood out in a very good way. The kid’s a gem, and at 6’1″, 208, he’s definitely got the size. Him/Monahan, Krejci/Bergeron? Haha, I know that’s lofty, but a man can dream!

  • prendrefeu

    Is anyone else watching Stepniak on the Penguins? He’s looking good. He’s maybe even looking better than he did when he was on the Flames, or do my eyes deceive me? If the former, is it inspiration of being on a new team or is the teammates that are making him look better?

    • Nick24

      I always thought that Stempniak was a lot better than people gave him credit for. For my money he was the best forward on the team last season.

      Its probably a mix of all those points though. He’s got a fresh start, better teammates, and a chance to win a cup.

      That would motivate me!

    • prendrefeu

      He’s got 2 assists tonight, but he was having one of his worst seasons offensively. Only 8 goals with the Flames over 52 games. Maybe a change of scenery and playing with Sid can reignite him.

    • beloch

      I’ve been expecting Stempniak to go on a streak. He’s a streaky player, hasn’t had any big streaks this season, and being traded to the Penguins probably got him royally pumped. It’s a recipe that will likely have fans in Pittsburgh trotting out the “Stempniaked” motivational posters in droves before the season is over.

  • Nick24

    Condolences to the Stajan family on the loss of their newborn baby. I went through a scare with my new born a few months back and my heart goes out to him and his family.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Rich Peverly has collapsed on the bench. He’s now being attended to. I hope he’s alright.

    Edit:
    Peverley has been taken to a local hospital and is conscious.

    The game was postponed as a result.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Lewis on between periods saying they are trying to take advantage of all the left handed, make them play their backhand.

    Might be nice if the Flames actually drafted a Right handed Dman.

  • RedMan

    Okay the Flames look like an AHL club playing a real NHL team. This is painful to watch . The only saving grace is that I didn’t pay to watch this. On a positive note, the Flames have played a decent stretch so they were due for a stinker.

  • RedMan

    The flames won’t tank, Hartley doesn’t have that word in his vocabulary. I suspect they will finish 5th or 6th, because the Hurricanes and Islanders are good at tanking. And Edmonton just plain sucks. However, still good players available at 6th, like Hayden Fleury, Ritchie.

  • piscera.infada

    Brian McGrattan has 6 SOG tonight in ~12 minutes of icetime, and goals in back to back games? Who is this guy? Move over Stamkos…

    In reality, they’re really throwing Monahan to the wolves tonight (at least in terms of icetime). I can’t watch the game, how does he look?

  • EugeneV

    Islander pick is lottery protected, Buffalo won’t have it. I can’t see Virtanen falling past mid-first. A guy with size and speed and good hands, wouldn’t mind seeing the Flames take him with their first or if you could swap the first and a 3rd for Anaheims 2 firsts.

    • EugeneV

      So just to be clear:

      You are proposing the Flames give up their first top 5 pick in 30 years in a shallow draft so they can select a player ranked #40 in the first round?

        • piscera.infada

          I agree it’s a pipe dream to get him in the second round, but IMO he’s a second-round talent. No way I trade a top-5 pick and a chance at Draisaitl or Bennet to take a guy that’s a second round pick. I see more upside in the two other than in Virtanen. I get it, he plays on the Hitmen – I just don’t see it. He’s very similar size to Draisaitl and Leon has 30 more points on a weaker team. It’s a virtual no-brainer in my eyes.

          • piscera.infada

            Agree there is no way I would trade down a top 5 pick for Virtanen.

            kmp …Virtanen has not shown he is an elite which is what is expected when you draft in the top 5. And trading #5 & #65 Flames picks for #10 & #29 ANA picks makes no sense when the Flames also have #35, #54 & #84 to acquire mid-level talent.

            Essentially you would be gambling a high-probability elite talent for a high-risk low-probability that Virtanen could become an elite talent for essentially little net benefit.

            However kmp..if ANA threw in Shea Theodore or other top A prospects that could be a different story…

          • piscera.infada

            What’s your definition of elite? He is top 10 in the dub in goals. So he isn’t a playmaker, he is a wing not a center. Has a great shot, has elite speed plays hard, what’s not to like. You can’t teach speed or size, but you can teach other facets of the game.

          • piscera.infada

            Draisaitl is talented, his skating is a weakness, have not seen Bennett play so I can’t comment. I don’t find any of the top ranked guys that compelling.

            I like Virtanens speed, size and shot. I don’t see him as a second round talent, reminds me of James Neal.

          • piscera.infada

            Actually, that’s strange. The one game (admittedly small sample size), I didn’t see Draisaitl’s skating to be too bad. His stride and mechanics are better than average, he’s just not as explosive as some of the better skaters. That said, he more than makes up for it with plus-plus vision – his vision is outstanding – and his composure (on the power play especially) is unreal for a young guy. Yes, I watched him hawkishly – he’s the only reason I went to that particular game.

            I’ve watched Virtanen a lot. I get free tickets (3+ games a month) from work (thank God for co-workers that don’t like hockey!). Virtanen is fast, when he wants to be. He also seems to score a lot of his goals when the game’s out of hand. Sure, we can speak about players that were seen as “lazy” or “unmotivated by playing junior” that made the show (Getzlaf, Neal, etc.), I just don’t hedge my bets that way in the first round of a draft that I assume we can agree is pivotal.

            I’ll say again, I don’t mind Virtanen as a prospect in the later first or early second. I am personally not sold on him as an early first round talent, nor am I trading down with the express reasoning being to take him.

            I also note in regards to Draisaitl, that someone in an earlier discussion about him pegged him as a bit of a prima donna (in the mold of a Shinkaruk). I’m wondering if someone can illuminate me as to where they heard/found this information? In a mad dash to try and find something, I’ve only been able to come up with glowing reviews from coaches, team mates, and the Prince Albert community. I’ve also heard good things from a few players and refs I know who are currently in the WHL.

          • piscera.infada

            I liked Draisaitl, until I watched the top prospect game. I would say his skating was well below average, didn’t notice it in World Juniors, but you couldn’t miss it in that game. He looked like he had extra gravitational force on him.