FGD #58: The Red-Hot Wild (7:30pm MT, SN1)

Back in January – about three weeks ago, in fact – we previewed the last visit of the Minnesota Wild to Calgary. We discussed their recent hot streak and how crucial it was for Calgary to beat them and put some distance between the two teams.

Well, it’s been three weeks and the Wild have lost just once in regulation. It happened on Wednesday in Vancouver. The Wild continue their road trip tonight in Calgary and are hoping to kick off another impossibly long winning streak. The Flames are hoping merely to keep their impossible season going for a little bit longer, and to creep a little bit closer to the mythical 95 points we project will be the playoff cut-off line.

I’m just hoping the Flames can put together a solid 60 minute game. They were the better team for about 25 minutes on Monday night against the Bruins, and that was good enough to eke out a win in overtime. With how well the Wild have been playing, they’ll need to be better than that.

The puck drops at 7:30pm MT tonight on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Lines, via Daily Faceoff:

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Per usual nowadays – for the 35th time this season – Jonas Hiller starts for the Flames. He’s 19-6-2 with a 2.38 goals against average, .915 save percentage and .926 even-strength save percentage. He’s backed up by Karri Ramo, who’s gotten quite good with the face-offs clipboard given how much time he’s spent with it this season.

No line-up changes for the home side, proverbially going with the folks that got ’em to the dance. Well, close to the dance, at least. That means Corey Potter, David Wolf and Brandon Bollig watch from the press box tonight, along with Ladislav Smid (injured) and Sam Bennett (almost-not-injured). However, Paul Byron was absent from morning skate with what Bob Hartley termed an “all-over body” injury, so he’ll be a game-time decision. Brandon Bollig skated in his place this morning.

The Flames would do well to watch game tape from Minnesota’s loss to Vancouver on Monday. The Canucks solved Dubnyk, and the recipe appears to be similar to how Calgary had success against Boston’s Tuukka Rask – traffic and deflections. A hot goalie stops what he sees.

THE WILD

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

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As per usual, expect Devan Dubnyk to get the start tonight. He’s 10-2-1 since joining the Wild, with a 1.71 goals against average, .935 save percentage and .932 even-strength save percentage. (On the season as a whole, he’s 19-7-3, with a 2.28 goals against average, .923 save percentage and .932 even-strength save percentage.) Dubnyk’s numbers are elite right now, and he’s played 30 games. The big question is this – he’s a career .911 goaltender. So…are these numbers merely an indication of a late-blooming goaltender held back by some shoddy defensive play in previous stops? Or is he due for a course correction?

Just for giggles, he’s a Rolling 5-Game Average for Minnesota’s Corsi For this season:

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And here’s a Rolling Five-Game PDO:

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The Wild have gone from wildly unlucky to moderately lucky in a short span. At some point this will slow down, but considering they hit 90 PDO on two different occasions this year, they’re due for some luck.

Finnish sniper Michael Keranen has been summoned from the Iowa Wild of the AHL and is projected to debut tonight, in place of the injured Thomas Vanek. The Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo – the beat writer of Wild beat writers – expects the visitors to split up their hot top line with an aim to avoiding Calgary’s top pairing of Giordano and Brodie. It’s not a terrible plan. Anyhow, Vanek skated this morning and the Wild didn’t do line rushes, so your mileage may vary. Expect a jumble of lines as Mike Yeo tries stuff out a bit in the early-going tonight.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary Minnesota
Wins 31 28
Power Play 17.7% (18th) 15.8% (26th)
Penalty Kill 79.7% (22nd) 85.8% (3rd)
Corsi 44.6% (28th) 51.6% (11th)
Corsi Close 44.7% (28th) 51.4% (12th)
Faceoffs 47.6% (27th) 50.0% (15th)
PDO 101.1 (6th) 98.7 (27th)

THE DRIVE FOR 95

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The Calgary Flames require 28 points in the remaining 25 games (including tonight) to reach the 95 point mark that’s projected to be the playoff cut-off. A 14-10-0 clip would do it.

A win tonight brings the Flames to 69 points, allowing them to (a) leap-frog the Canucks temporarily [with Vancouver holding two games in hand] and (b) get to within a point of the Winnipeg Jets (with a game in hand). The key for the Flames is keeping teams between them and whoever is chasing a playoff spot. Right now they only have San Jose as a buffer.

Elsewhere tonight…

  • The only other game with Western playoff implications is Colorado (59 points) hosting Los Angeles (64 points). Five points separate these two teams, and the Avalanche need to win some games to stay with the pack. On the other hand, the Kings are just two points back of an idle San Jose Sharks team…which they have three games in hand on. So if the Avalanche win tonight, the Kings still have more kicks at the can. Maybe Jarome Iginla can help the Flames out…

SUM IT UP

It’s another big game in a line of big games, and hopefully the Flames can make adjustments from their previous game, they could really use the two points. A win gives Calgary even more breathing room, while a loss gets the Wild even closer to displacing a team for a Western playoff berth.

And after tonight, there’s just 24 games to go.