(Candice Ward / USA Today Sports)
Last season, the Edmonton Oilers and the Buffalo Sabres were really, really bad. The Oilers won the draft lottery and got some kid from Ontario. The Sabres got the consolation prize, Boston University’s Jack Eichel. In addition to being the first meeting of the year between Calgary and Buffalo, but also between Boston University’s recent superstar (Eichel) and Boston College’s recent superstar (Johnny Gaudreau) in a battle of the last two winners of the Hobey Baker Award.
In addition to all that stuff, it’s also a key game for the Calgary Flames. They enter Thursday’s game X points out of the post-season which may be surprising unless you’ve watched the Pacific Division play hockey this year (and if you have, my condolences to you). Someway, somehow, the Flames have managed to phone in October and still be just as bad as everyone else.
Tonight’s contest kicks off at 7pm MT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo presumably starts once again, and for the 19th time this season. He’s 9-8-1 with a 3.00 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. He was good late against San Jose, but has otherwise been “fine.” It’s hard to tell when the Flames go back to Jonas Hiller, or if they ever will, but Ramo’s given them good enough goaltending that they haven’t been blown out recently so that’s something. Jonas Hiller has the flu but is expected to dress as the back-up, while Brandon Bollig reportedly may slot in for Micheal Ferland (per Pat Steinberg).
The Flames are on a bit of a roll, having not lost yet in December and sitting unbeaten at home since October 30. Their home success hasn’t been utter and complete, but it has covered up for some uneven play away from the Saddledome. Their power-play showed serious signs of improvement on Tuesday in terms of puck movement but just couldn’t bury their chances. Can they keep that going?
If they want to claw their way back to a respectable record, they’re going to have to.
Projected lines via your pals at Daily Faceoff:
Presumably the goalie rotation in Buffalo continues, so I’d expect to see Chad Johnson in net tonight. He’s 7-8-1 with a 2.45 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. He’s been decent but unspectacular since being thrust into a primary role after Robin Lehner got injured.
Tonight’s the third stop on Buffalo’s Western Canada swing, and they’ve lost twice already: 4-2 to Edmonton and 5-2 to Vancouver. The Sabres have a lot of good pieces, but have struggled with injuries and consistency of late (and the two are probably related). But you can’t even really write off a team with the kind of young players they have – Kane, O’Reilly, Girgensens, Reinhart, Eichel, Ristolainen and on and on. They haven’t quite gelled yet, but they have a great foundation.
But they’re reeling right now, and the Flames better take advantage of it.
WHEN LAST WE MET
These two clubs met twice last season, with the home team winning each game. The Sabres won 4-3 in December, while the Flames won 4-1 in January.
In 101 previous meetings, the Flames have gone 36-46-16-3 against Buffalo.
HOME ICE HERO
The folks at ATB have honoured their first Home Ice Hero of the season!
To nominate the behind-the-scenes difference-maker in your hockey world, CLICK HERE!
SUM IT UP
The Flames are riding a wave of success at home, and really need it to continue if they have any hope of jumping out of their familiar last-place perch and closer to a playoff spot.