(Candice Ward / USA Today Sports)
After kicking off the homestretch of the 2015-16 season with a win over Carolina on Wednesday night, the Calgary Flames are back in action at the Saddledome tonight in the first half of a back-to-back that concludes tomorrow night in Vancouver. But before the big Pacific Division tilt at Rogers Arena tomorrow night, the Flames face off against the National Hockey League’s worst team – the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Before the Carolina game, I suggested that the Flames need to pick a direction – either winning a lot or losing a lot – and stick to it for the remainder of the season. Since they won on Wednesday and they’re facing the horrid Blue Jackets tonight, perhaps they may be able to claw their way back into the playoff picture after all.
Then again, there’s a lot of hockey left to be played.
The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. And for those going down to the building, it’s Western Night (the theme night that’s nowhere as good as Retro Night).
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
For the 36th time this season, Karri Ramo gets the start. He was quite good against Carolina, especially late, and he’s been exactly the goaltender the Flames have needed him to be this season. He’s 17-17-1 with a 2.57 goals against average and a .918 even-strength save percentage. But fun fact: there’s 29 goalies that have played 25+ games this season; Ramo’s even-strength play is better than only five others – Cam Ward, Mike Condon, Pekka Rinne, Cam Talbot and Sergei Bobrovsky. His numbers are getting better, but he’s not an amazing goalie compared to the rest of the league.
There are two big questions on the blueline:
- Will T.J. Brodie play after leaving Wednesday’s game due to injury?
- Will Jakub Nakladal (finally) make his NHL debut?
The answers to those questions are: Yes, Brodie will play and No, Nakladal will not. By the sounds of it the Flames will go with the same line-up that thumped Carolina, so Nakladal, Markus Granlund and Brandon Bollig are your extra bodies this evening (along with the suspended Dennis Wideman).
In scoring news, the Flames’ league-worst power-play scored twice against Carolina, representing just the fourth time all season that they’ve scored multiple PP goals in a single game. (Are you surprised they’re worst in the league?) Despite their woeful track record, they’ve been a lot better at puck movement and puck management on the power-play, so hopefully that success can spill over into tonight’s game.
THE BLUE JACKETS
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Columbus played in Vancouver last night and then flew to Calgary, so it’s basically guesswork at this point in terms of who suits up for them. Joonas Korpisalo started last night, so presumably Anton Forsberg gets the nod on the back-end of the back-to-back. Forsberg is 1-3-0 with a 3.03 goals against average and .889 even-strength save percentage.
The Jackets won a tight game 2-1 in a shootout last night in Vancouver. They were out-shot handily. They were lucky to make it to overtime, let alone win the game. This is a completely winnable game for the Flames. Columbus is a tired team, is a team that’s not all that good, and they played and traveled.
(Note: I had previously noted that Columbus lost last night. I was wrong. They won. My brain must not have processed that they won, because they’re Columbus so of course they lost. Apologies.)
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames met Columbus on their pre-All-Star road trip in mid-January, and their win 4-2 win over Columbus was their only victory on that trip.
Calgary is 24-21-7 all-time against the Blue Jackets.
HOME ICE HERO
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game going and asks for nothing in return. Nominate your Home Ice Hero
and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero by clicking this link!
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
The Flames open the night four points up on last-place Columbus and eight points back of Anaheim for the final Pacific Division playoff spot.
SUM IT UP
If there’s a must-win game this week, this is it.