(Sergei Belski – USA Today Sports)
Folks, we keep saying this without really believing it, but here’s the thing: tonight could be Jaromir Jagr’s last game in the Saddledome.
The Calgary Flames are back below .500 (19-20-2) and face the Florida Panthers, fresh off having their winning streak snapped by Vancouver. (It was in overtime, so they still got a point.) The Flames have lost four straight games to Pacific Division opponents. They need points right now. It’s an important game for the Flames to stay in the mix.
But man, it’s hard not to focus on how this could be Jagr’s last game here. I mean, we say that every year and he’s playing quite well this season, so maybe he could play for a few more years.
The puck drops at 7:30pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
With Karri Ramo dealing with a combination of “health and fatigue” (per the Flames via Roger Millions’ Twiter), Jonas Hiller makes his 10th start of the season and just his 3rd appearance in a Flames net since Halloween. He’s 4-4-0 with a 3.76 goals against average and .862 save percentage. He’s had a pretty rough season thus far, between his bad October and then being injured for several weeks after that.
The Flames are getting bodies back, basically swapping an injured Lance Bouma (laceration) for a hopefully healthy Jiri Hudler (groin). Hudler has not been good this season. It could be age. It could be injury. It could be that Monahan’s not quite as good this year, too, and Hudler had the help of two white-hot youngsters last season when he finished top 10 in league scoring. Either way, Hudler needs to be better than he has been for the Flames to make the post-season. And the Flames have swapped Mason Raymond in for local boy Joe Colborne tonight, as he sits as a healthy scratch for the first time all season. Considering that he’s been used on the top line a bit this year, that’s a big statement from Bob Hartley.
The Flames were poor defensively against the Sharks, but their power-play was deadly. Hopefully some of that confidence can seep into other parts of their game, because they need to be better at even-strength than they have been lately.
Projected lines via your pals at Daily Faceoff:
Remember when Roberto Luongo was all washed up? Well, apparently he doesn’t, as he’s been a machine this year. He’s 19-11-4 with a 2.08 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. Fun fact: tonight will be his 899th NHL appearance. It sounds like the Panthers will be without Aaron Ekblad tonight due to an injury.
Jaromir Jagr is an amazing human being. He’s 43. He’s the NHL’s active all-time leading scorer. He won Stanley Cups…in the ’90s. And despite his elder statesman status, he’s 38th in league scoring despite being the league’s oldest player. And he’s probably Florida’s most dangerous player, the guy that makes a big different on the NHL’s hottest team right now.
Keep an eye on Sasha Barkov tonight. I mean, everyone’s all up on Jagr and Huberdeau (who is also quite good), but Barkov is due for a big game sooner or later.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames visited Sunrise, Florida in November and lost a close one by a 4-3 score.
All-time, the Flames are 14-9-3-2 against the Florida Panthers.
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SUM IT UP
A living hockey legend is in town, but the Flames need to focus on the matter at hand: they desperately need points in order to keep pace with the Pacific Division pack. And since they’ve failed to use their divisional games to gain ground, they’re forced to try to wrest points from the Floridas of the world.