FGD #62: One Last Trip to Uniondale (5pm MT, SN West)

Tonight’s game represents a historic occasion, as the Calgary Flames and the New York Islanders – 1972 expansion buddies – play their last regular season at the historic Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale.

Oh, and the team’s first game without Mark Giordano since last season, when the team went 5-11-2 during his 18-game absence. The Flames captain will be out of the line-up tonight with what’s being termed as an upper-body injury, inciting panic among FlamesNation and its denizens.

Despite all this, there’s still a game tonight. The Flames (33-24-4) visit the Islanders (40-20-2), in a meeting between a team trying to make the playoffs and a team trying to win a division title.

The puck drops at 5pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan, and it might be the most fascinating game of the entire season for the Calgary Flames.

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Karri Ramo gets the start in net for the locals yet again. He’s 10-6-1 with a 2.51 goals against average and .911 save percentage. He’s making his 21st start of the season. He’s been the best Flames player on the trip thus far, and second place isn’t really very close to him, either.

The Flames will be without Matt Stajan, Mason Raymond, Mark Giordano, Paul Byron and Ladislav Smid tonight, for reasons varying from the impending birth of children to undisclosed upper-body maladies. Being without Giordano and Byron should negatively impact the penalty-kill unit, so don’t take any penalties tonight, Flames. There’s some question about whether or not Brandon Bollig comes in for Emile Poirier this evening or not, though, but Corey Potter is expected to debut after sitting for nearly 20 games as a healthy scratch.

The visitors need wins to stay in the playoff hunt, but tonight also provides a fascinating chance to see how bad the Calgary Flames are without their best player. Giordano eats up minutes in literally every situation, and losing him forces the team to radically reshuffle nearly aspect of their line-up and re-evaluate every match-up. On the eve of the trade deadline, the team gets a chance to see how many holes it truly has.

It could be a bloodbath against a very good New York Islanders team, so I wouldn’t be shocked if valuable prospects Poirier and the recently-recalled Tyler Wotherspoon are kept out of the game tonight to protect them.

THE ISLANDERS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Jaroslav Halak gets the start, as usual. He’s 32-13-0 with a 2.49 goals against average and .910 save percentage. He’s not the world’s greatest goaltender, but he’s been steady for the Isles this season.

No changes for the Islanders’ line-up from last game. They have a strong mix of youth and experience, and they’ve got a bunch of speed and skill up-front, particularly John Tavares’ line.

They’re a tough test for any team, let alone one missing their best player.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary NY Islanders
Wins 33 40
Power Play 17.9% (19th) 18.5% (14th)
Penalty Kill 80.7% (19th) 74.6% (30th)
Corsi 44.8% (28th) 53.4% (5th)
Corsi Close 45.9% (26th) 51.8% (10th)
Faceoffs 47.9% (25th) 49.1% (17th)
PDO 100.9 (9th) 99.8 (21st)

THE DRIVE TO 95

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The Flames can get back into a playoff spot with a win tonight, and potentially a divisional spot with a win and some help.

Elsewhere:

  • Colorado faces Dallas. Colorado needs wins to stay in the mix. Dallas needs wins to get close to the pack that’s bouncing in and out of spots. Fundamentally, this game has very little impact on Calgary.
  • In a bigger game, Los Angeles faces Anaheim. The Kings have a game in hand on Calgary, so a Ducks win would do a lot of good for the Flames – regardless of the result on Long Island tonight.

The Flames need 25 points in 21 games to hit 95 points.

SUM IT UP

The Flames don’t have Mark Giordano tonight, and potentially for awhile. But they’ve also got 21 games remaining and still have a realistic chance at a playoff spot. But they’re going to have to play a virtually perfect team game to win consistently – especially against a strong Islanders team tonight.