(Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
After besting the Vancouver Canucks on the road on Saturday night, the Calgary Flames return to the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome in search of their first home-ice victory of the 2015-15 campaign tonight. Their opponents are a team that’s given them some trouble over the past few years, the St. Louis Blues.
Puck drop is just after 7pm MT. It’s the first regional broadcast of the year, so catch the call from Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey on Sportsnet Flames, or turn on your radios to Sportsnet 960 The Fan to join Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias.
The locals are riding high and hoping to keep their momentum going after a pretty solid 60 minutes of ice hockey in Vancouver. That third period was easily their best 20 minutes of hockey this young season, and you’ve gotta think they’re trying not to mess up that recipe.
Here are the lines via your pals at Daily Faceoff:
Jonas Hiller starts again after giving up just a pair of goals – both of them top-corner jobs with little defensive help – on Saturday. Your healthy scratches are Joni Ortio and Josh Jooris, and on the injured list are T.J. Brodie, Ladislav Smid and Joe Colborne.
The Blues have a fast forward group, so based upon the success that Kulak and Engelland have had thus far, perhaps coach Bob Hartley errs on the side of ice-time balance. The foot-speed of St. Louis’ top six is such that it could wear out anybody that gets hemmed into their own end – notably Russell and Wideman – could get worn down. Attempting to roll three pairs with relatively even ice-time could help mitigate that.
Oh, and keep an eye on Johnny Gaudreau. He’s been in on all four Flames goes thus far in the season. For the Flames to have a chance at success tonight, Gaudreau’s line will have to be sharp and hopefully the rest of the forward group snaps out of their opening-season slump and provide some secondary scoring.
The Blues, like the Flames, have won a game and lost a game. They beat the Edmonton Oilers and then fell to Minnesota in their most recent outing.
The biggest news for them is the concussion suffered by 19-year-old Robby Fabbri in the Minnesota game. He’ll be out for awhile, which has led to a shuffling of their lines by coach Ken Hitchcock.
Here’s the projected groupings via Daily Faceoff:
Brian Elliott gets the start after Jake Allen started (and lost) against Minnesota. Elliott started against the Oilers and allowed just one goal, but the Blues did out-play Edmonton overall – so it’s not like he stole the game. There’s a chance that Scott Gomez or Joel Edmundson work their way into the line-up, too.
Also on the injured list, in addition to Fabbri, is Patrick Berglund, so the Blues have a decent amount of fire-power on the shelf right now. That said, their top nine is pretty solid even without those players, so the Flames will have their hands full tonight.
Keen an eye on blueliner Colton Parayko. He’s a rookie and first-year pro from St. Albert who played the past few seasons at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (after playing AJHL hockey in Fort McMurray). He’s a big sucker, and he’s making his first NHL appearance in his home province. He’ll definitely be motivated to have an impact performance tonight.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames haven’t been that good against the St. Louis Blues in the last while. Last season, the Blues were the only team that the Flames looked thoroughly out-matched against. They lost all three games, and were out-scored 12-2 in the process.
In franchise history, the Flames are 74-71-14-4 against the Blues, but under Bob Hartley’s guidance they have an unimpressive 2-7-0 record.
Oddly, last season’s first meeting between the Flames and Blues was the third game for the Flames last season, too.
THE FIGHT CARD
In each of the three Flames/Blues games, there was a fight late in a period.
Deryk Engelland fought Barret Jackman late in the first game, when the Flames were out of it. Brandon Bollig fought Ryan Reaves late in the first in the second game (on St. Patrick’s Day) after Matt Stajan took a big hit. And Bollig fought Bortuzzo in the first period of their final meeting after Bollig crunched Jackman – Bollig was tossed from the game and the Flames had to kill a five-minute power-play as a result.
So I’m just saying: history suggests that this game could get chippy or punchy at some point, particularly with the Flames likely dressing both of Bollig and Engelland. (And Micheal Ferland could factor in, too.)
Reaves/Bollig was the third-highest rated Flames fight of 2014-15 by HockeyFights.com users.
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SUM IT UP
After playing a good game in Vancouver, the onus will be on the Calgary Flames to show that wasn’t any fluke. And they’ll need to be just as good as they were on Saturday, if not better, because they’ve struggled mightily against the Blues in recent years.