(Sergei Belski – USA Today Sports)
We’re nearly half-way through the 2015-16 season, but the Calgary Flames have yet to play the Los Angeles Kings. But these old friends will renew acquaintances tonight as they polish off each other’s respective 2015 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames and Kings played a bunch of really important games against each other last season, including Johnny Gaudreau’s first career hat trick last December 22 saving Christmas and a playoff-like April 9 game resulting in a 3-1 Flames win and their first playoff berth in eons. The Kings are a much more resilient team this season and sit atop the hapless Pacific Division by virtue of being the only true “good” team in the bunch.
The Kings will be sore about leaving so many points on the table against the Flames last season. The Flames should be sore about not adapting to the Ducks neutral-zone pressure last game and letting points slip away. It should be a good tilt to end the calendar year on.
The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet 360 (and Sportsnet One) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Projected lines by your pals from Daily Faceoff:
It sounds like Karri Ramo will get the nod for the 26th time this season (and the 23rd time since Halloween). He’s 13-11-1 with a 2.68 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He allowed just a single goal against the Ducks on Tuesday night and was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the reason they lost. And to be honest, given how little the Flames showed offensively, he would’ve had to be insanely good for the Flames to have won that game. And despite being largely invisible and a non-factor in his 9:20 of ice-time – the least of anybody on the team – Bollig’s back in the line-up because the Kings are a big team, and Mason Raymond’s perimeter speed is in the press box (and so is Josh Jooris for that matter). The Flames are 14-9 with Raymond in the line-up and 7-12 with Bollig in, and Raymond plays a lot more than Bollig does when he does dress.
For what it’s worth, Johnny Gaudreau’s 8 points against Los Angeles is the most he has against any NHL team during his short NHL career. And he’ll have to be good tonight, as the Flames seem unable to generate any offensive pressure if #13 is on the bench or off his game. The Ducks sicced Carl Hagelin on him on Tuesday and largely kept him off his game, and I’d expect the Kings to match up their third line so Dustin Brown can pester him throughout the proceedings.
The Flames failed to generate serious pressure on the power-play against Anaheim, but their penalty killing has continued a pretty nice run, as they have prevented power-play goals against for their last seven games. If they want to give themselves a chance to win, staying out of the box and preventing those types of opportunities would be a big step in the right direction.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Jonathan Quick gets the nod for Darryl Sutter’s squad, making his 31st start of this campaign. He’s 20-9-1 with a 2.20 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He is one of the league’s tippity-top goalies, and he’s bolstered by a pretty solid defensive group boasting the likes of Doughty and Muzzin. The Kings have seen their depth tested a bit this season, as they’re currently without Kyle Clifford, Dwight King, Jeff Carter and Matt Greene, but they’ve managed to slot bodies in from the AHL’s Ontario Reign and keep chugging along.
And what can we say about the Jolly Rancher’s crew that hasn’t already been said? They were a strong team last year that figured out a way to lose just enough close games to miss the playoffs. Now that the off-ice distractions seem to be behind them, the Kings are playing just as well but seem even more focused than they were last year. Expect a business-like approach from the former two-time Stanley Cup champions.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames and Kings played five times last season, with Calgary winning four of those games. Every game was decided by one or two goals.
All-time, these classic Smythe Division rivals have met 226 times in the regular season. The Flames hold a sizable 116-85-21-4 edge against their regal counterparts.
THE PACIFIC RACE
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SUM IT UP
The Flames finish off the 2015 calendar year with a pretty big divisional game against a team that they knocked out of the playoff picture last season. Coming off a tough loss to Anaheim, both teams will be amped up and hoping for two key points in the playoff race.