Flames swap Czech forwards: Michael Frolik in, Jiri Hudler out

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.

On Hudler

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.

On Frolik

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.

On goaltending

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?

  • MontanaMan

    The Hudler injury is a bit odd. Although his play has slipped dramatically (possibly caused by an injury) there was no visible sign of it. He returns against Florida, playing the entire game, and showing no signs of an injury during the game. Now he’s out again. I’ve had groin injuries and they are the worst to rehab but something about this whole scenario is a unusual.

    • KACaribou

      The only thing that makes sense to me is that Hudler has been nursing an injury all season (groin?). His play has been so much worse than last year. He’s looked like an average hockey player and last year he led the league in ES points.

      But the last game he was noticeably better. Now he’s hurt again. Must have been during practice?

      Too bad. The last game reminded me of what a good Jiri Hudler can do for a hockey team. He looked like his old self, which is very good.

      • MontanaMan

        It’s a tough injury as it impacts everything as a hockey player. No push off so it impacts your first stride, obviously impacts your skating but also your core strength. Worst part is that it takes forever to heal.

        • piscera.infada

          Totally hear you man. I had a brutal groin injury about 14 or 15 years ago. For the rest of my competitive hockey career, it nagged me. Even now, it’ll flair up from time to time during beer league games, after a tough workout, or if I torque oddly during a golf shot. Groin injuries are brutal, and it’s not so much that they hurt really, but it effects basically that entire leg’s range of motion to the point where you’re constantly trying not to make it worse.

          I actually wondered for a bit if Hudler tweaked his groin at times this year. Not so much because he’s slow, but because his stride doesn’t look as powerful, or as clean, it looks almost tentative. This explains a lot actually.

      • MattyFranchise

        Watch how every player in the game gets torque on their shots, their feet are always moving and that lower core area is engaged nearly one hundred percent of the time during every action they take on the ice.

        Groin injuries are the worst.

  • Kat

    Hiller??!? Not a fan of this. What is Bob doing? Play til you lose again? Yeah cuz that worked so well this year. Only loss to the Coil this yar was with Hiller. With days off there is no reason for this. Up yours Bob. .this is a stupid egomaniacal decision and I hate you for it amongst other reasons. Ramo had done everything and more since being entrenched and now you want to play mind games? You’re a jerkoff

    • KACaribou

      Okay now, take it easy. Back up slowly and set the gun down. I know you should be coach of the Flames… we all do! You’re awesome. Ramo is good. He is very good. We all like Ramo. And we all like you too. Now slide your arms into this white coat with the long arms. Slowly now. Everything is going to be fine.

      • Kevin R

        Hahaha you’re good in my book Caribou
        . I know sometimes I get sauced up and vent but deep down I have good thoughts as well. Yeah I grew up in Coil.country where a lot of my.vitriol comes from but appreciate the understanding . Go flames go

        • KACaribou

          Hey bro, you’re doing well if you can get sauced up mid-aft Friday. We all lose our marbles from time to time. You can laugh it off though. That puts you one up on most of us.

  • KACaribou

    I don’t understand this logic:

    “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.”

    Okay so you are saying the Flames’ Corsi is low, and the BBF line is also low, but that’s okay because it’s slightly higher than the team’s Corsi – which of course is still low?

    How has that line done as far are putting the damn puck in the net compared to goals allowed while they are out there in their 125:34?

      • piscera.infada

        Well they did get a second rounder for Reto Berra. At least Hiller has a rather long track record of being fairly good. Berra just had a single season of being worse than Joey MacDonald.

  • aflame13

    @MattyFranchise & @MontanaMan

    That’s kinda how I figured they’d be.

    I’ve been of the opinion that Hudler hasn’t been as much “unlucky” as he’s more likely been fighting an injury. According to SportingCharts’ data, this year he’s been taking a much lower percentage of his prefered types of shots, wrist and snap, so if he is fighting a groin injury, then that would explain his inability to take those shots like he prefers to. If he is, let’s hope he can get healed up asap.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    What a terrible year for Hudler on his contract year.

    On the other hand; does this leave the door open for the Flames resigning him to a relatively cheap 1 or 2 year “show me you still got it” contract?

    Surely no other team is going to offer him term with all the question marks surrounding his injury…

    I know: heartless, right?


  • TheoForever

    The flames should trade Hiller for a second pick and for get about bernier !!!!Here Is a Russian nhl ready goalie the should grab cheap. Vasily Koshechkin, G – Metallurg Magnitogorsk
    Given that the Tampa Bay Lightning have a giant goaltender, 6’7″ Ben Bishop, it’s kind of perplexing that massive goalie Vasily Koshechkin never forged an NHL career. Drafted 233rd overall in 2002, the now 32-year-old has fashioned an outstanding career in the KHL, with no discernible decline in his ability. In fact, almost all his numbers have remained steady, including his 2014-15 season when he was third in save percentage (.934), in the top 10 in save percentage (1.86), a tie for third in shutouts (5) and top five in wins (32). the 6’7″ Koshechkin has played in no fewer than 51 games each of the last three years. He has represented Russia twice at the world championships (2007 and 2010) and was selected as an alternate for the 2010 Russian Olympic hockey team. We think he’s NHL ready, right now. Then grab Denis Guda and put in the system.

    • piscera.infada

      Do you know who’s had similar numbers to Kosheckin in the KHL? Karri Ramo. Not that I’ve ever seen him play, and I’ll concede Kosheckin has two very stellar years statistically (.940 and .937). However, if you look at the entire body of work for the two, Ramo has very, very similar numbers. Ramo is also three years younger.

      Kosheckin has been playing regular games in the KHL (or the old Russian League) for 11 years now. If there was something special about him, he would have been signed by at least one NHL team who is in dire need of a goalie–that is, assuming he even wants to come to North America in the first place.

      Also, I’d caution against trying to extrapolate KHL goalie statistics to those in the NHL. It’s a fools errand.

  • MattyFranchise

    You look at last seasons goalie stats in the Nhl and Koshechkin would have been in the top 5 in most stats by a long shot . In a lot of categories so not a bad choice . At 6 ft 7 in he fills the net.

  • MRL

    If Hartley’s decision to start Hiller is based on Ramo being fatigued or ailing due to injury, I get it. However, if Ramo is indeed, ready and able, then I’m convinced Hartley deserves a portion of the blame for the Flames goalie woes. Yes, Hiller got a shut out last game but I’m convinced a junior B goalie would have got the same results given the Panthers performance. I understand the idea of healthy competition but the only true message Hartley has instilled in his goaltenders heads is that you’re one bad goal/game away from not playing indefinitely. Given the amount of pressure a goalie puts on himself and what the position demands, I think a coach should give a goalie an allocated amount of games to rebound from mistakes and/or establish a rhythm, within reason of course. Hartley’s management style only adds to the pressure. I’m sure both goalies are eager to amend for their shortcomings but if they’re unable to play, it can easily turn into overthinking and obsessing which is mentally draining; I’m sure there are times when neither Ramo or Hiller truly leave the rink. I don’t find it a coincidence that Ramo started playing his best hockey following Hiller’s injury. Hartley had no desire to play Ortio leaving Ramo as the unanimous starter which in turn, I believe, allowed Ramo to completely focus on the position itself. So it’s a shame if Hartley wants to continue playing musical chairs after the stretch Ramo has given them.