Tonight’s Flames lineup was always going to be uncertain. The flu seems to have been making its way through the team, maintenance days have abounded, and Kris Russell in particular has been mysteriously absent the past couple of practices.
Well, his absence from practice must have been serious, because Russell is officially day-to-day with an upper body injury – and officially unavailable for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins.
For the immediate: this means both Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland will dress, reunited together on the third pairing. It’s a pairing that performed extremely poorly when they played together the previous season, but since Engelland has been like a new man this season, and Smid was effective in the Flames’ most recent game, hopefully they’ll perform well together, at least for tonight.
Although they’ll probably get really limited minutes.
With no reason to break Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie up, this means Dougie Hamilton’s partner on the second pairing will be Dennis Wideman – another former Boston Bruin, coincidentally enough.
Russell missed two periods against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Flames’ 2-1 overtime win back on Nov. 20, presumably due to a shot he blocked with his hand in the first period. He returned to the lineup the next game, and has been logging big minutes for the Flames in the four games since.
That said, we don’t know the official cause for Russell’s absence. It could be due to illness, it could be due to the blocked shot, it could be due to many blocked shots and various bumps and bruises the defenceman has likely accumulated over this season so far. The seriousness of his absence isn’t yet known, and it’s possible he could be back in time for the Flames’ next game, which isn’t until Tuesday, Dec. 8.
That’s a lot of time to determine what may need to be done with the Flames, or if anything needs to be done at all. In the meantime, they have just six healthy defencemen, and Russell is not in tonight.