After racking up a pair of pretty decent wins at home last week, the Calgary Flames hit the road this week for a four-game, eight-day road trip with visions of getting back to .500 tumbling around the back of their minds. The first step in the “Back To Respectability Tour” goes tonight in Sunrise, Florida, as they visit the Panthers.
The Flames (5-9-1) have quietly been playing some good hockey of late, and have been rewarded with wins in three of their last four games and points in four of their last six. They hope to build upon their modest success tonight against the Panthers (5-6-3), who have gotten very good goaltending but just have a knack for not getting the right goal at the right moment (and giving up the wrong goal at the wrong moment).
The Flames hope that knack continues for at least one more game.
The puck drops after 5:30pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo starts once again. He’s 3-4-0 with a 3.53 goals against average and .889 save percentage. It’s his fifth straight start, as he’s basically taken over the Calgary net. Micheal Ferland is a game-time decision, in which case he’d swap in for Brandon Bollig. (All indications from morning skate are that he’ll be in tonight.) The extra healthy bodies remain Ladislav Smid and Mason Raymond, which combined with Bollig puts about $8 million of cap space in the press box.
The Flames finally got some production from their power-play against Pittsburgh, producing five shots and generating a ton of momentum in their opening period. Joe Colborne’s goal came right after the power-play ended (off a nice Sam Bennett pass), while some nice passing in the offensive zone resulted in Johnny Gaudreau’s extra-man marker. If they want to keep winning games, production from their man advantage situations has to be the rule, not the exception.
If the Flames can keep getting strong games from their top two lines – and their three young studs in Bennett, Monahan and Gaudreau – they’ll be hard to stop. And now that T.J. Brodie’s back and Dougie Hamilton is looking more and more comfortable, perhaps the Flames may soon reveal themselves to be as good as people had hoped.
For now, I think the fanbase will just settle for another solid sixty minute effort.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Tonight’s prospective starter looks to be Roberto Luongo, who’s 3-5-2 with a 2.30 goals against average and .931 save percentage. His win/loss record is a mirage, as his underlyings have been very good – almost unsustainably so. He’s due for a stinker, but the Panthers have been playing some pretty solid hockey in front of him.
As usual, keep an eye on the epic epicness of Jaromir Jagr. He’s 43, he’s growing his sweet mullet back, and he’s still scoring at just shy of a point-per-game clip. He’s got 728 career goals, 1812 career points, and is generally considered one of the most consistently bad-ass snipers in the history of this great sport. He’s the NHL’s active leader in points and is fourth all-time behind Gretzky, Howe and Messier. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame as soon as he feels like hanging it up – which probably won’t be until he’s tired of scoring all of the goals.
WHEN LAST WE MET
Both meetings between Calgary and Florida were track meets last season – with the teams splitting the season series with a win apiece. On November 8, the Flames went to Florida and won a wild 6-4 contest (that saw Bob Hartley pull Karri Ramo mid-way through the game after giving up 4 goals. On January 9, the Panthers took a 6-5 win back in Calgary.
In 27 previous meetings with the Panthers, Calgary is 14-8-3-2 all-time.
SUM IT UP
The Flames have momentum on their side for the first time this season. They need to keep things rolling and take advantage of the opportunities this road trip provides for them to claw their way back towards the .500 mark.