(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
After losing a track meet on holiday Monday, the Calgary Flames hope to get back to winning hockey games tonight against the Minnesota Wild – the only National Hockey League club the Flames haven’t faced yet this season.
The Flames have been consistently inconsistent this season; playing pretty good offensive hockey but being pretty rough inside their own blueline. They have a decent top six but a pretty shoddy bottom six, which is exactly who teams are making hay against. (Case in point: Anaheim scored many goals against their lesser lights.) Can the Flames take advantage of a team still adjusting to a new coach? We shall see.
The puck drops at 8pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Yes, the Sportsnet overlords have followed up a 2pm afternoon start with an 8pm start (following a Montreal/Colorado game as part of a double-header).
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Jonas Hiller starts, again, despite giving up four goals against Anaheim. Granted, he didn’t take the loss because Joni Ortio allowed the deciding goal, but here we are. Hiller is 8-6-1 with a 3.22 goals against average and .909 even-strength save percentage. It sounds like both David Jones and Matt Stajan return to action after missing Monday’s game, but Kris Russell likely won’t as he deals with a lingering lower-body injury. The good news? A second straight game of Jakub Nakladal.
Where to begin? Um, the Flames have had a absolutely horrendous penalty kill lately. Over the last four games, they’ve allowed 10 goals. They’ve also given their opponents 22 man advantages, which is a recipe for losing a lot of hockey games. They only beat San Jose by the grace of God and a terrible first period from Alex Stalock, and beat Toronto because they dressed their AHL team.
On the other hand? Calgary’s power-play has been pretty decent during the same time-span, accounting for five goals on 18 advantages. That’s pretty good, but to be blunt, the PP hasn’t been as good as the PK has been bad. They both need to be better for the Flames to have a snowball’s chance of making the playoffs.
(Spoiler: Amazing special teams still might not be able to dig them out of this hole.)
In other news? Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett are pretty great at hockey, and super-young, so there’s always hope for the future. Like, the far, far future.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Presumably Devan Dubnyk starts for the Wild. He’s 19-19-5 with a 2.38 goals against average and .929 even-strength save percentage. He’s given them a chance to win most games, but they just haven’t consistently gotten enough scoring.
Minnesota beat Vancouver on Monday, which was (a) the first win for new coach John Torchetti and (b) a great way to make them fan favourites in our fair city. It was their first win since January 21 and just their fourth win in 2016. So, they have a hole to dig themselves out of. A big one.
But hey, a Minnesota visit means we get GRANLUND VERSUS GRANLUND, as Markus plays Mikael. We’ll keep track of their head-to-head match-up, which will hopefully prove to be scintillating.
WHEN LAST WE MET
This is the first time these two teams have met this year, which is a really weird scheduling quirk. You’re crazy, NHL scheduling robot, you’re crazy.
In 80 previous meetings, the Flames hold a 40-24-14 record head-to-head against the Wild.
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SUM IT UP
Two teams with really slim playoff hopes face off! The Wild are desperate. The Flames are desperate. It could be a really fun, scrappy game, or it could be downright ugly.