Well, it’s come down to this: the Calgary Flames are capping off their four-game, eight-day sojourn through the United States tonight with a meeting with the reigning and defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Some of the most memorable road hockey moments of the past few seasons for the Calgary Flames have happened in Chicago. Who could forget Reto Berra’s miraculous first game in the NHL in Chicago back in November 2013? Or Jonas Hiller’s 49-save first Flames win in Chicago last October? The Blackhawks (9-7-1) are a damn good team, but they played last night against St. Louis and may be tired. It’s something the Flames (6-11-1) will need to try to take advantage of if they want to return home with a .500 record on this trip.
The puck drops just after 6:30pm MT on Sportsnet One (with Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
The Flames had an off-day yesterday. Here are lines from Friday night’s game in Washington via Daily Faceoff:
It’s unlikely that the lines will change that much, if at all, coming off a win. Karri Ramo will likely start. He’s 4-6-0 with a 3.36 goals against average and .894 save percentage overall, though his save percentage is .901 since he was recalled from the AHL. Your extra healthy bodies are Ladislav Smid, Josh Jooris and Mason Raymond.
The Flames power-play has improved lately – before not scoring in Washington, they had scored in three straight games – but the arguable bigger source of concern is the team’s penalty kill. The Flames penalty kill has been scored on in six of the last eight games; they weren’t scored on by the Flyers or the Capitals, games they both won (in overtime). But considering how rough the team’s been at even-strength, the special teams groups have to give the team some more chances to win. (They’re probably missing Lance Bouma here.) Anyway, considering how much offensive firepower the Blackhawks have, keep an eye on this and cross your fingers that they don’t give Chicago too many power-plays.
Chicago played St. Louis yesterday. Here are lines via Daily Faceoff:
Most likely Scott Darling plays tonight, given that Corey Crawford started last night against the Blues. That’s good news, given that Darling is statistically worse than Crawford – a lot worst. He’s 1-2-0 with a 3.11 goals against average and a .885 save percentage.
Chicago’s in a unique position tonight. They’re coming off a win last night in St. Louis in an emotional game that saw both Jonathan Toews and Marko Dano involved in separate incidents – word is neither will face supplemental discipline – and tonight is the final home game of the month for the Blackhawks, as they hit the road for six games as the circus comes to the United Center. So given that there’s a lot of stuff swirling around the Second City, the Flames have a decent chance tonight to take advantage of a team that may be a bit discombobulated.
That said, both Michal Rozsival and Duncan Keith came back from long-term injuries last night and were apparently just fine, so the Hawks are suddenly a lot deeper than they used to be earlier in the season. Given their insane depth, it’s going to be a tough two points to steal.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames had a win in three meetings with Chicago last season. Their only win was the aforementioned 2-1 win in Chicago in October, which was followed by a 4-3 loss in Calgary in November and a 2-1 loss in Chicago in December. All three games were tight and decided by a single goal.
In 161 all-time meetings between the Flames and the Blackhawks, Calgary has a 64-66-26-5 record against Chicago.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are facing a tired opponent who faced a bitter rival in an emotional game last night. The Blackhawks may be the Stanley Cup Champions, but they’ve lost games this season, and this is as good a set-up for a win as the Calgary Flames are going to get.