Hang on to your butts, this is going to be quite a week for the Flames.
Tonight the Flames kick off a stretch of five games in seven nights with a game at Madison Square Gardens against the New York Rangers. I don’t know about you nation, but the Rangers have always been a kind of empty, soulless, hard-to-like-but-hard-to-hate team to me.
Perhaps it’s the fact that when I was younger, they essentially harvested the leagues biggest names failed to do anything meaningful with them. Including Theo. Oh wait a second, Kevin Hayes broke up the band and joined the Rangers. Hey, wasn’t it New York that shipped us Kotalik?! Yeah never mind, I hate them.
The Derek Grant era begins tonight nation, check out the lineups and preview after the jump!
THE FIGHTIN’ FLAMES
Wow, this video from 2008 looks like the Zapruder film. Also, check out Flame legend Anders Eriksson there sporting Joe Colborne’s number eight. Remember that next time you complain about the Flames D.
Here is the Flames lineup tonight thanks to our pals at Daily Faceoff:
News broke this morning that Micheal Ferland is out week-to-week with a sprained knee, which is dreadful because Ferland has had to deal with far too many injuries already in his young career to date. Doubly bad is the fact that Brandon Bollig will be effectively taking his place in terms of a replacement for a physical winger. Ferland has shown flashes of being an effective contributor on the Flames while Bollig has a nice beard. That’s about all I can say.
Making his Flames debut tonight is Derek Grant, a 25 year old centreman who signed with the Flames this off-season. Grant has put up solid numbers in his AHL career, including 21 goals and 38 points last year for the Ottawa Senators affiliate in Binghamton. Grant is known as a solid two-way centreman but he also has got some pretty nice hands he showed off last week in Stockton (skip to 1:43):
Also, Grant may have one of the most peculiar rookie eligibility situations I’ve seen in recent memory. RE: Grant’s current eligibility,
Has 25GP; Rookies cant play 26
In 2 seasons – 1st being 5GP; Rookies cant play in 6+ twice
Turns 26 mid-season; Rookies cant be 26 for camp
— Andrew Kett (@SaintMorose) October 25, 2015
Grant is literally the very limit of what can be considered a rookie. I mention this because his Calder eligibility is a pressing issue.
While I’d love to see the Bennett-Backlund-Frolik line get some more rope, Joe Colborne was pretty effective in his first game of the season against Detroit. Tonight, Colborne is going to get a great opportunity playing with two possession drivers so hopefully he can build off of his performance on Friday. Odds are, the lines may see some shuffling tonight as I don’t expect Sam Bennett to be playing with Grant and Jooris for an extended period of time. At least, I hope not.
The odd man out tonight will be Mason Raymond who has looked dangerous at times but shown a general inability to bury chances, despite being played with just about every single Flame at some point this season. That being said, it makes no sense to sit Raymond in favour of Bollig but it seems as though there is no getting rid of Bollig despite the fact that the Flames won and generally looked very good with Bollig parked upstairs.
On the back-end, the Flames are continuing to split up the much-maligned Hamilton-Giordano pairing that was a staple of the first few games. Hamilton played less on Friday but also looked a little more comfortable with the puck. Tonight his partner is Smid who is being eased into the lineup again after playing only eight minutes on Friday including only two shifts in the third period. I agree with Ari, Smid should be on a conditioning stint and Nakladal should be getting a shot.
The Engelland-Russell pairing is a bit of a nightmare but I’m not sure what choice the Flames have, there are just too many fires to put out right now until Brodie returns. Hopefully Hamilton will continue to get more comfortable and begin to consistently drive possession, effectively sheltering one of the lesser-lights like Smid or Engelland.
Hiller starts again tonight which means that Ortio will likely play tomorrow against Brooklyn. On Friday, Hiller looked like himself again: dressing up glove saves, making awkward shoulder stops, scrambling around his net, and generally stopping lots of pucks in bizarre ways. I don’t question his methods, just simply wonder how his groin isn’t obliterated every single game. Also, what are your thoughts on his new mask? I think I preferred Darth Hiller and certainly preferred his retro mask (pictured above) though that is hardly fair as anything with the retro scheme is going to be superior.
All around, there’s a lot of reasons to be nervous about the Flames lineup, it does not exactly look very dangerous. However, the Flames earned that victory against the Wings and probably deserved to take it in regulation. Hopefully that team shows up tonight.
JARRET STOLL’S LINES
Once again, here are the Rangers lines thanks to the diligent folks at Daily Faceoff:
Despite the fact that many of the Rangers’ best players are off to slow starts on offense, the Rangers have been winning games and are second in the Metropolitan with a 5-2-2 record. Rick Nash has just three points in nine games, Ryan McDonagh is pointless, and tied atop the Rangers’ scoring race are Mats Zuccarello, Oscar Lindberg, J.T Miller, and Keith Yandle. That seems…unlikely to continue for very long. Hopefully Nash, Kreider, and the rest of the slow starters don’t choose tonight to wake from their scoring slumber.
The Rangers boast an exceedingly balanced lineup that can score on all four lines. This presents some hair-raising matchups for the Flames on defence, especially with Hamilton struggling at times this season. The Rangers have a ton of speed with forwards like Zucarrello, Miller, and Fast, meaning if this game is run-and-gun, I don’t like the Flames’ chances.
On defense, the Rangers have a solid top-six with big names on pretty much every pairing and are the essentially the same group that the Flames saw last February at MSG when they were shut-out 1-0. However, the Rangers did play last night, losing a tough game to Philadelphia in a shootout.
Also, this guy isn’t in net tonight, which is too bad. I mean, I’ve looked at his stats, and he seems like a mediocre forward. Can’t imagine why everyone thinks he’s such a good goalie. Instead, the Flames will face Antti Raanta which sounds more like a cleaning product than a goalie. In any event, the Flames were shut out by a backup last time they played in MSG, hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?
Tonight’s game is on ‘Hometown Hockey’ tonight as they visit Gatineau, Quebec. The whole Hometown Hockey product, though saccharine sweet, can be rather enjoyable if your stomach can permit Ron MacLean to wax poetic on every imaginable aspect of Canadian hockey during intermission. Personally, I like the kids explaining their favourite players and picking the three stars.
It’s going to be a tough stretch of games and it goes without saying that, owing to a miserable start to the season, the Flames have a razor-thin margin for error this week and essentially have to at least tread water if they want to put themselves in a position to chip away at their early points deficit.
Puck drops at 5pm