Injury and lineup update time!
Good news: Michael Frolik looks to be back in the lineup after missing the past 12 games with a shoulder injury.
Bad news: Jiri Hudler looks to be out of the lineup once again after having apparently aggravated his groin injury in his first game back.
Good news: At least the Flames don’t really have to make any lineup changes?
Also, Jonas Hiller will start his second game in a row, and Karri Ramo doesn’t even have the flu this time.
When we last left the Flames, they had soundly defeated the Florida Panthers by a score of 6-0, mostly on the strength of Sam Bennett scoring four goals. Bennett was on a new line with Mikael Backlund and Hudler: a line that, evidently, will be tweaked slightly in accordance with player availabilities.
Hudler missed three games with a groin injury, but returned to the lineup to play 13:10 against the Panthers. He assisted on two of Bennett’s goals, including his fourth goal scored in the game’s final minute, so there was no reason to suspect anything wrong.
That is, evidently, not the case. Hudler left the morning skate early, apparently unable to go, and so will miss the Flames’ next game tomorrow in Edmonton with a groin injury.
There’s no word yet on just how long he’s expected to be out. The Flames don’t play again until Jan. 19, when they embark on a road trip further away from home, starting in New Jersey. It’s worth mentioning that following the Oilers game, the Flames have a four-game road trip and then host the Predators before the All-Star break, so keep an eye on if Hudler joins the team for the road trip, as that could indicate whether he’s back in the lineup before the break or not.
Hudler’s replacement, however, is not only easily found, but potentially an upgrade, as Frolik looks ready to return to the lineup. Frolik is one of the better forwards on the Flames, so his slotting directly into the top six is a welcome sight. Also, he scored a hat trick against the Oilers already, so this is a great game for him to make his return.
Bennett, Backlund, and Frolik have played 125:34 even strength minutes together. The line has been a 48.7% CF line over that time. At first glance, that doesn’t look great, until you realize the Flames are a 47.8% corsi team, so it’s an upgrade over their usual affair. Besides, it’s putting Bennett with two established, defensively responsible veterans whose games were seemingly made for each other, so as long as Bennett is going to play on the wing, this is probably the best line he can be on.
Hiller only faced 15 shots against the Panthers, but he stopped them all for his first shutout of the season. With that, he starts his second game in a row for the first time since Dec. 12, back when both he and Ramo had the flu and Hiller was the slightly healthier of the two.
Ramo took a puck to the throat in a practice earlier this week. He’d also started 12 games in a row over the course of about a month, so fatigue could be playing a part in the decision to keep Hiller in. Ramo has already played 30 games this season, and his career high in the NHL is 40, so this is a higher workload than he’s ever seen before.
Besides, while we muse on trade deadline implications for Hudler, one of Hiller or Ramo – who are both impending UFAs – could be dealt, in which case, it only makes sense for both to get playing time.
So aside from the Czech forward swap, the lineup remains completely unchanged. Joe Colborne and Ladislav Smid will be the team’s only healthy scratches, but the Flames are coming off of a 6-0 win; why mess with that?