FGD #54: Roaming The Desert

Last evening, the Calgary Flames played one of the strangest games of the year. They blew a 4-1 first-period lead but somehow survived two 5-on-3s, losing David Jones and Karri Ramo, and eked out a 6-5 shootout win in San Jose. Now, roughly 20 hours after that game ended they’re back in action against another divisional rival, the Arizona Coyotes.

After last night’s game, I can honestly say that I have no idea what to expect. The Flames have won three straight (and four of five), but not in ways that inspire any confidence that they can (a) keep it going or (b) creep their way into a playoff spot and stay there until season’s end.

The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Last night’s projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

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The Flames aren’t skating before the game, but here’s what we think we know right now. Karri Ramo is out for tonight and Jonas Hiller will start. He came in in relief last night and won. He’s 8-5-1 with a 2.98 goals against average and .908 even-strength save perecentage. He’ll be backed up by Joni Ortio, just summoned from the AHL’s Stockton Heat to hold a clipboard – much like he’s been doing on the farm lately with Kevin Poulin playing well. David Jones’ condition wasn’t updated as of this writing, so presumably we’ll see Josh Jooris back in tonight.

Calgary’s special teams were active last night. The good news? Their power-play scored twice, including Kris Russell’s tying goal that sent things to overtime after the team collapsed like a dying star and blew a 4-1 lead. The bad news? The team largely blew their 4-1 lead on the back of giving up three power-play goals to the Sharks, a number that’s just awful any way you slice it. The Flames cannot afford another shoddy performance; they need to take fewer penalties or be less bad on the PK.

Heck, both would be nice.

Keep your eyes peeled for the usual energetic kids, such as Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, who continue to drive Calgary’s offense despite being tykes.

THE COYOTES

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

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As with Calgary’s most recent meetings with the Desert Dogs, young Louie Domingue gets the nod tonight. He’s 9-7-4 with a 2.61 goals against average and .932 even-strength save percentage since being recalled from the AHL.

The Coyotes are a well-coached, fairly disciplined group. They know what they are and they play a style of game well-suited to their talents. And they have a team that’s not high on name-value, but full of youthful pep. Oh, and it probably helps that Domi and Duclair have exceeded expectations and really done a great job complementing the fairly skilled forwards that Arizona already had on their roster.

THE NUMBERS

CALGARY ARIZONA
Wins 25 24
Power Play 14.5% 18.2%
Penalty Kill 76.6% 77.2%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 46.9% 46.4%
Faceoffs 48.5% 53.7%

WHEN LAST WE MET

The Flames have played Arizona twice this season. They’ve lost both games. Both games have been close, though; a 2-1 overtime loss in Glendale in November and a 2-1 regulation loss in Calgary in early January.

All-time, the Flames are 87-70-27 against the Arizona/Phoenix/Winnipeg Jet-Yotes.

RACE TO THE BOTTOM (MIDDLE)

The Flames are now six points up on last-place Toronto, and just five points back of Nashville for the final wild-card spot (with a game in hand!).

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They’re still sixth-last in points percentage, but they’re on their way up right now.

SUM IT UP

The Flames have been winning of late, albeit in bewildering, frustrating fashion. It probably won’t last, especially with their top goalie on the shelf, but it would be so Calgary Flames if they made a run at a playoff spot before the percentages catch up with them (and they end up drafting 10th or 12th instead of in the lottery pack).