(Sergei Belski-USA Today Sports)
It’s probably premature to call the sixth game of the 2015-16 campaign a must-win for the Calgary Flames, but it’s rapidly approaching that status.
After five games of uneven play and underachieving, the Calgary Flames (1-4-0) face a big challenge in the form of Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (3-1-0). While the Flames have struggled, losing three straight (and all against conference rivals), the Capitals have won two in a row by identical 4-1 scores. Now, they hit the road for a three-game Western Canadian swing.
The Flames hope to give them an inhospitable welcome.
Puck drop is at 7pm MT and you can catch the action on Sportsnet 360 (with Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey) or Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Projected lines for tonight, via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo starts for the third time this season and he’s still seeking his first win. Last word was both Sam Bennett and Joe Colborne were game-time decisions, while it sounds like Mason Raymond and either Markus Granlund or Micheal Ferland are the extras. The Flames only have 22 active bodies, so they can bring Colborne off of the injured reserve without making another move.
UPDATE: Granlund was returned to the AHL, so it sounds like Ferland will definitely be playing tonight (as will Colborne). Most likely that third line is now Ferland – Colborne – Jooris.
The biggest news is four all-new lines, including the reuniting of the fourth line – who played together in the pre-season and were pretty good for whatever that’s worth. Hopefully the new lines lead to the groups playing simple rather than getting overly fancy; Calgary’s even-strength play has been occasionally okay and mostly bad, so focusing on simplicity – short passes, lots of shots, low-risk clearing moves – is a great place to start. Granted, it’s a challenge to take that approach against a team as talented and dangerous as Washington, but that’s the hand they were dealt.
Washington’s projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Braden Holtby is likely the starter tonight. He’s been very good for the Caps thus far.
Washington’s line-up is a good mix of size, talent and speed. Their big bodies are either talented or can get moving in a hurry, and that’s allowed them to give more time and space to their highly-skilled players. Their defensive group isn’t the best in the world, but they nicely complement their forward contingent.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames and Capitals split their two meetings last season. Tonight’s meeting is the 90th all-time between the Flames and Capitals; Calgary/Atlanta have won 42 of the previous 89 meetings.
Way up in Prince George, BC, the Calgary Hitmen (and Pavel Karnaukhov) are facing the Prince George Cougars in the first of back-to-back games between the clubs tonight and tomorrow.
HOME ICE HERO
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SUM IT UP
Again, it’s not really a must-win game for the Calgary Flames tonight, but the desperately need to get their house (and game) in order. They need to get points to get back in the thick of the Pacific Division, but I’m sure Flames fans (and other observers) would be content with a competitive showing against a very good Washington Capitals club tonight.