(Candice Ward – USA Today Sports)
Thanks to Garret Sparks, the Calgary Flames aren’t in sole possession of last place in the National Hockey League to kick off the month of December. That concludes the positives right now for the Flames.
After playing decently but gaining just a single point on their three-game road trip, the Flames limped home to prepare for tonight’s kick-off to a massive five-game home-stand. With their season basically hanging on a precipice, the Flames (one of the NHL’s worst teams) kick things off with a game against the Dallas Stars (one of the NHL’s best teams). To say expectations aren’t exactly high would be an understatement.
The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
The team was flu-ridden yesterday and is probably full of game-time decisions today. So here’s your lines from last game via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo gets the start after Jonas Hiller gave up a five-spot against San Jose. Ramo is 6-8-1 with a 3.02 goals against average and .899 save percentage so far this season. He’s Calgary’s better goalie which, when you consider his numbers, is a bit scary.
The Flames were missing Johnny Gaudreau (flu), Sean Monahan (flu), Michael Frolik (maintenance) and Kris Russell (maintenance) from practice yesterday. Presumably Frolik and Russell will play, but heavens knows what happens with the sick players. The club is carrying three extra bodies – Ladislav Smid, Mason Raymond and Brandon Bollig – but I think it’s safe to say that the Flames are in a whole heap of trouble if either of Monahan or Gaudreau aren’t 100%.
What’s left to say? The Flames are near the bottom of the NHL standings in many, many categories. Goal differential (overall and even-strength, dead-last), score-adjusted Corsi (28th), save percentage (30th), face-offs (27th), PDO (29th), goals against per game (30th), power-play (29th), penalty killing (30th) and a few others. There’s a good many things they can improve. Many of them stem from poor goaltending and defensive play.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Antti Niemi starts while Kari Lehtonen is on the shelf. Niemi’s 10-4-0 with a 2.60 goals against average and .908 save percentage. He’s backed up by Jack Campbell, who has yet to play this season.
Dallas is so much better than the Flames in most statistical categories, particularly wins. Their team is crazy-deep. They can roll three or four really good lines. They’re at the top of the NHL’s standings for a reason: Jim Nill has very patiently cobbled together his team, and now they’re well-rounded and able to hurt their opponents in many different ways.
WHEN LAST WE MET
Last season, the Flames and Stars played three times. The Flames got three of a possible six points, while Dallas got four of a possible six. The Flames won 5-3 in Dallas, but lost both games in Calgary 4-3 (in a shootout) and 2-1 (in regulation).
All-time, the Flames are 71-58-25-7 against the Dallas Stars franchise.
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SUM IT UP
The Calgary Flames need to be a desperate team tonight. Granted, they’ve needed to be a desperate team for, what, a month or so? But up against one of the NHL’s best teams, they’ll need to be extremely sharp. And even then, with their luck, they’ll have their work cut out for them.