After winning both games on their short two-game homestand, the Calgary Flames have quietly put together a respectable month of November. After going 3-8-1 in October, the Flames have gone 5-4-0 in November. It’s hardly world-beating, but they’re clawing back towards respectability.
This upcoming road trip is potentially big for the Flames; they have three games this week against Pacific Division opponents, beginning with the Anaheim Ducks. Much has been made about how awful the Pacific teams have been this year, to the point where the Flames hit the road just five points back of Vancouver for the final Pacific playoff spot. Hopefully the Flames have worked the kinks out of their game, because they could get themselves back into the playoff picture with good performances against Anaheim, Arizona and San Jose this week.
Who’d have thought that a few weeks ago?
The puck drops tonight at 8pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo gets the start for the visitors. He’s 6-7-0 with a 3.04 goals against average and .901 save percentage. It’ll be his 14th start of the season and 11th in a row. He’s been quite good lately and has consistently given the Flames a chance to win over his past five or six starts. It appears that Kris Russell will play. Jiri Hudler didn’t take line rushes but probably slots in as well. Jonas Hiller is on the trip but not dressing as back-up yet, while Lance Bouma remains out.
UPDATE: No Hudler tonight, line-up unchanged from the Chicago game, with Mason Raymond on the top line.
The key to victory? Keep doing what they’re already doing at even-strength, as it appears to finally be working, but they need to get their special teams act together. The power-play is awful and has trouble gaining the zone, while their penalty kill is rather porous and too frequently gives up good chances. If they can figure out their special teams game, maybe the Flames can keep stringing wins together.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Freddie Andersen has the flu, so Anton Khodobin likely starts for the Ducks tonight. John Gibson has been summoned from San Diego to back him up. Khodobin is 3-3-0 with a 2.44 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Simon Depres, Jiri Sekac and Hampus Lindholm have been injured, though Lindholm might be back tonight. UPDATE: Lindholm is in, playing on third pairing.
The Ducks, a summer removed from a division title, have been bad this year. They were just drubbed 5-0 by Tampa Bay – the same Tampa Bay club the Flames narrowly lost to last week – and sit north of the Flames in the standings by virtue of the loser points they’ accumulated. Even more than the Flames this season, the Ducks have been guilty of making dumb decisions at bad times and having mistakes end up in the back of their net. While the Flames were straight-up bad at hockey for a few weeks, the Ducks merely chose spots throughout each game to be bad at hockey.
Add in some underwhelming performances from most of their key players, and Anaheim sure hasn’t seemed all that mighty or scary this season. It may be a prime time for the Flames to finally get off their schneid and collect two points at Disneyland.
WHEN LAST WE MET
Last season, the Flames and Anaheim played each other five times in the regular season (and then five more in the playoffs). The Flames won their first and last regular season meetings; on November 18 they won 4-3 in a shootout in Calgary, and on March 11 in Calgary they won 6-3. In-between, Anaheim beat the Flames 3-2 (in Anaheim), 6-3 (in Anaheim) and 6-3 (in Calgary).
In 91 previous meetings between the Flames and the Ducks, Calgary has a 37-39-7-8 record. They haven’t won a regular season game in the Honda Center since January 19, 2004, when they beat them 5-1.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are 0-15-5 in their last 20 regularly-scheduled visits to Anaheim. But with the team seemingly finally playing like they were at their best last season, and the Ducks reeling from a whuppin’ in Tampa, perhaps the Honda Center Curse can finally be put to bed.