FGD #23: Howling For A Win

The Calgary Flames head to one of their favourite recent haunts, the desert, for the second game of their three-game Pacific Division road trip tonight. They’re in Glendale, Arizona to tangle with the Arizona Coyotes and they’re hoping to right the ship after a really disappointing result in Anaheim on Tuesday night.

The Flames are still close to the pack, entering Friday’s ice hockey matches seven points back of Vancouver with a game-in-hand. Granted, the Flames are closer to the basement (two points up on Edmonton) than they are to the playoffs, but there is a lot of hockey left to play. But they need to get on track and rattle off some wins, particularly against divisional opponents like Arizona.

The puck drops tonight at 7pm MT on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanJiri Hudler
Sam Bennett 

Mikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Joe ColborneMatt StajanDavid Jones
Micheal FerlandMarkus GranlundJosh Jooris

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It’ll be the 12th straight start for Karri Ramo. He’s 6-8-0 with a 3.12 goals against average and a .898 save percentage. He’s ranged from “fine” to “really good” since he’s gotten this run of starts. He’ll be backed up by Jonas Hiller, who’s freshly back from the injured reserve and likely getting the start Saturday in San Jose.

Other line-up changes see Jiri Hudler and Markus Granlund rotate in, while Mason Raymond and Brandon Bollig rotate back out. The emphasis in the new lines seems to be mixing size, talent and speed in each line. We’ll see how it goes. Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames with 20 points, five more than the second-highest scoring player (Sean Monahan). Gaudreau has as many assists as Monahan has points. The practice line-up was fairly new yesterday, though Hartley indicated that he was reverting back to his “normal” lines for tonight’s game anyway. So welcome to the fourth line, Markus Granlund!

The Flames are in the midst of their worst start since 2001-02, when they had just 16 points through 22 games. The good news is that they have 17 points through 22 games, but it’s not really very good news ultimately.

THE COYOTES

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Mike Smith is expected to get the start for Arizona. He’s 9-5-1 with a 2.95 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. He hasn’t been world-beating for the Coyotes, nor has he been for a few seasons, but he’s been good enough most nights this season.

The Coyotes are in the midst of a mini-renaissance this season, driven in large part by rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Domi has 18 points and Duclair has 14, but they’ve really added a different dimension to a team that was primary thought of as Oliver Ekman-Larsson and a bunch of scrubs.

In terms of everything, the Coyotes are a little bit better than the Calgary Flames in almost every respect so far this season.

THE NUMBERS

CALGARY ARIZONA
Wins 8 11
Power Play 13.8% 15.7%
Penalty Kill 72.1% 81.5%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 46.4% 49.5%
Faceoffs 48.0% 53.2%

WHEN LAST WE MET

Last season, the Flames loved playing the Coyotes. They played them five times and they beat them five times. For the curious, the scores were 5-3, 3-0, 5-2, 4-1 and 3-2. Calgary’s dominance over Arizona helped them make the playoffs.

All-time, the Calgary (Atlanta) Flames are 87-69-20-6 against Arizona/Phoenix/Winnipeg.

ELSEWHERE

There’s a ridiculous amount of hockey going on tonight with Flames connections.

  • In the AHL: The Stockton Heat take on the Bakersfield Condors!
  • In the WHL: The Calgary Hitmen (Kanzig) take on the Regina Pats!
  • In the OHL: The Barrie Colts (Mangiapane & Andersson) face the Kitchener Rangers and the North Bay Battalion (Bruce) face the Niagara Ice Dogs.
  • In the NCAA: Colgate (Harrison) faces Brown.

SUM IT UP

Like a drift wandering the desert needs water to survive, the Calgary Flames need wins. Badly. As a matter of survival.