(Sergei Belski – USA Today Sports)
The Calgary Flames try to avoid hitting a historical benchmark super-early in the season tonight when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames (3-9-1) have not been great over the first 13 games, but they haven’t been putrid, either. They’ve shown some flashes of strong play, but their biggest issue has been consistency – that and their defensive zone play. Tonight, in the 14th game of the 2015-16 season, they try to avoid having that second column in the league standings – regulation losses – hitting double-digits. Twice before – back in days of yore before the vaunted loser point – the Flames hit 10 losses at the 16th game of the season: 1995-96 and 1997-98. At this point, the Flames are playing for pride and to keep their flagging playoff hopes alive. Hitting a historical mark for losses isn’t a way to do either of those things.
The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Completely new lines for the Flames tonight, via Daily Faceoff:
(Your healthy scratches are Ladislav Smid and Mason Raymond, because of course they are.)
Karri Ramo starts for the third straight game for the Flames. He’s 1-4-0 with a 4.43 goals against average and .871 save percentage. All of those numbers are terrifying, but partially a product of Calgary’s porous defensive-zone play. Presumably the logic behind going with Ramo for consecutive games is to give the rest of the team some stability rather than rotating bodies constantly. If it’s not that, then I have no bloody idea what’s going on anymore. (It’s either that or Hartley has already lost faith in Joni Ortio, which in itself is illogical.)
The Flames have 7 points through 13 games. That’s tied for the franchise’s second-worst start, points-wise, behind 1995-96, when they went 1-8-4 (6 points) through their first baker’s dozen and finished with just 79 points. I’m just saying it don’t look too good.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Since Michal Neuvirth started and lost in Edmonton on Tuesday, presumably the Flames draw Steve Mason tonight. He’s 2-4-0 with a 3.34 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. Davis Drewiske was recalled from Lehigh Valley to be the seventh defender as Andrey Medvedev went back to Philadelphia, while Sean Couturier is listed as “questionable” for tonight, but he’s on the trip.
If the Flames are gonna snap out of this funk, this is the team that’s gonna do it for them. The Flyers are worse than the Flames in terms of puck possession, are starting the worse of their two goalies, and have lost their last five games (0-4-1) during which they’ve scored just eight goals. (In their last five games, the Flames have scored 14 goals.) And in each of the five games that they’ve lost, they’ve been out-shot. So the key for the Flames against Philadelphia? Shoot!
The Flyers have some foundational issues to their team, but they’ve got some good players on their roster, and they’re good enough that they will snap out of their funk if the Flames give them the opportunity.
WHEN LAST WE MET
Calgary beat Philadelphia twice last season, both times in March. On March 3, the Flames went into Philly and beat them 3-2 in overtime. On March 19, the Flyers headed to Calgary with revenge on their minds…and lost 4-1.
The Flames and Flyers have battled 113 times in the regular season, and they actually faced the Flyers in the playoffs in the first season they made the playoffs in Atlanta (1973-74, they lost) and in Calgary (1980-81, they won). All-time, the Flames are 44-55-12-2 against Philadelphia.
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SUM IT UP
The name of the game? Survival. The Flames need points to build some confidence and maintain their slim playoff hopes. By hook or by crook, they need to start winning some games.