After trouncing the lowly Vancouver Canucks on Friday night, the (also lowly) Calgary Flames are back in action tonight against a much more terrifying for: the Anaheim Ducks.
The Flames looked quite good against a Canucks team that had been thumped 5-2 in three consecutive games (Calgary made it four). However, Anaheim has owned Calgary in recent years, especially (a) in the playoffs or (b) at Honda Center, and they sit 13 points up on Calgary in the Pacific Division standings. If the Flames have any hope of shocking the hockey world and making the post-season – Sports Clubs Stats has their chances at 5.2% – this is the type of game they need to win on a regular basis.
The puck drops at 5pm MT (really early for a California start) on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
For the fifth time since Karri Ramo got hurt, Jonas Hiller will start for your local sports team. He’s 9-7-1 with a 3.20 goals against average and .909 even-strength save percentage. Hopefully Joni Ortio gets a chance eventually. These are the exact same lines and pairings that the Flames ended Friday night with, as things seemed to be working pretty well.
I’m extremely curious how much ice-time Wotherspoon and Nakladal get against the white-hot Ducks. Other than managing their lines intelligently, the challenge for the Flames will be avoiding penalties. On their last Western road trip the Flames spend way too much time in the box and got shelled, and the Ducks have a terrifying power-play.
Keep an eye on the top line: they were relatively quiet against Vancouver, but they’ll need to be a focal point for the offense if they’re going to be able to survive this game.
The Flames begin today’s games 10 points out of a playoff spot and five points ahead of the last place teams.
Projected lines from Daily Faceoff:
Given that he got the win in Anaheim’s 5-2 win over Vancouver their last time out, I’d wager we see John Gibson get the start tonight for the Ducks. He’s 13-8-2 with a 2.10 goals against average and .918 even-strength save percentage. He’s backed up by Frederik Andersen, who is quite good.
The Ducks are well-rested (they last played on Thursday), relatively healthy (only missing Chris Stewart) and have absolutely owned Calgary in recent years. The Flames can play well against Anaheim and lose, and they can play poorly against Anaheim and really lose. We know that the Ducks’ home dominance against the Flames has to end eventually, but I’m not sure if anybody – even the 20 gentlemen wearing Flames sweaters – really believes it.
Expect to see Josh Manson leaning on Johnny Gaudreau a lot tonight.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames have lost their last 21 regular season visits to the Honda Center, going 0-16-5 in that span. In fact, when you include the playoffs they have a single win (from April 2006) in their past 27 trips to Orange County and a 1-21-5 record. Yeesh.
This is the fourth meeting between the two teams this season. The Ducks won all three of them; 5-3 in November, 1-0 in December and 6-4 last week.
In 94 previous clashes with the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames are 37-42-15.
SUM IT UP
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
The Flames need to either get on a crazy winning streak and claw their way into the playoffs, or they need to go on an epic losing streak and start preparing for next season. The way they’re going, I fear they’re going to be like the late-era Iginla teams and end up finishing outside of the playoffs and outside of the really good draft picks.