Today in the great state of North Carolina, two excellent teams will clash in a battle of wills will high stakes.
Three hours east (and 40 minutes earlier), the Calgary Flames will face the Carolina Hurricanes in a battle of two teams trying to salvage their seasons and creep closer to an improbable playoff berth. And because of the NFC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium that’s on at the exact same time (and the winter storm-related state of emergency in the area), expect to see a bunch of fans dressed up as seats. Yes, even moreso than a usual Hurricanes game, which averages a league-worse 11,000 fans.
The puck drops at 4pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Here’s your projected lines for tonight, via Daily Faceoff:
(However, swap out Brandon Bollig for Josh Jooris, and Deryk Engelland for Ladislav Smid.)
Karri Ramo gets the start for the local sports team. He’s 16-14-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and .910 save percentage this season. He is in so many measurements basically the “league average” goalie. Considering the Flames goaltending situation was a tire fire of ineptitude and bad bounces in October, and league average goaltending got them into the second round of the playoffs last season, this is a nice bounce-back.
The big news for the Flames, if you can call it that, is the return of Lance Bouma after his second non-shotblocking injury of the season. His return pushes Brandon Bollig and Mason Raymond to the press box, while Micheal Ferland has been placed on the injury reserve after getting clobbered by an accidental knee to the noggin against Columbus. He’ll be eligible to return after the All-Star break.
As always, watch out for Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, who are absolutely driving Calgary’s offense right now along with Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie. And keep an eye on the power-play, which has chugged along at 26.9% with seven goals in eight games this month.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
With Cam Ward on the injured reserve with a concussion, Eddie Lack gets the start for the ‘Canes. He’s 7-9-3 with a 2.86 goals against average and .896 save percentage. He’s been rather inconsistent this season, but with Ward out for a bit it’s a good chance for him to string some starts together and get some confidence in his game.
Guess who’s leading the Hurricanes in scoring? Defender Justin Faulk, which is good for him but a bit of a commentary on how Carolina’s been playing this season. But they’re 5-3-3 so far this month regardless, and their penalty killing has been really strong this month, so the Flames will have to lean on them a bit to get two points.
WHEN LAST WE MET
Last season these teams split their two meetings with the home side winning each game. The Flames won 5-0 in Calgary in October, while the Hurricanes won 4-1 in Carolina in November.
Carolina/Hartford and Calgary/Atlanta have faced off 67 previous times in their illustrious histories. The Flames have their second-best all-time winning percentage against that franchise, with a 41-18-8 record (and 67% of available points).
I would be absolutely shocked if it’s north of 5,500.
SUM IT UP
The Flames have gone 1-1-1 thus far on this road trip, with today’s game followed by a stop in Dallas tomorrow night. To stay with the playoff pack, they really need at least one more win.
They have their work cut out for them, but they also have a lot of games-in-hand on everyone above them.