(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
Better late than never, but the Calgary Flames welcome 2003 first round pick Dion Phaneuf to the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight for their final contest before the National Hockey League trade deadline. Rather than visiting with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phaneuf comes a-callin’ with his new team, the Ottawa Senators.
This evening’s festivities are important for two reasons. First, it’s possibly the last game with the organization for a few players, and they probably know it, too. Secondly, it’s Retro Night, where the Flames wear their best uniforms and hopefully can help their departing compatriots go out in style.
The puck drops at 8pm MT as the late game on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC (with Paul Romanuk and Mike Johnson) or you can tune into Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias) for all the action.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
I’m a betting man, and I’d bet that Joni Ortio’s pair of strong starts has earned him another start for the Flames. The Finnish ‘tender is still winless this season, with a 0-4-2 record, 3.22 goals against average and .911 even-strength save percentage. (Aside from his record, his numbers are better than Jonas Hiller’s, for whatever that’s worth.)
Besides Ortio in net, things could get messy as the trade market heats up. Kris Russell has been on the active roster since his lower-body injury, but he’s missed six games without being put on the injured reserve. Dennis Wideman will miss his 13th game due to his suspension for hitting Don Henderson back in late January, while Ladislav Smid and Karri Ramo are on the injured reserve.
Kris Russell? Well, he took the skate, but wasn’t in line rushes. TSN’s Jermain Franklin asked Bob Hartley about Russell’s status following the morning skate:
Q: Kris Russell’s status, in that sense, is there a dilemma? Is he healthy enough to play and knowing that he is possibly on the market is it safer for him not to play, in the team’s best interest?
“I love your question, because I didn’t really like what I read yesterday, that there’s some mixed messages. There’s no mixed messages. Remember the night of Jarome Iginla? Go back in the morning, what did we say? We said Jarome Iginla is scratched. We didn’t say Jarome Iginla was injured. We would never put Kris Russell in a sitaution where he’s lying or we’re lying. Kris Russell has an injury. He’s going to be a game-time decision. We don’t know his status yet. He’s been injured. He’s feeling much better. Yesterday he skated for a good period of time, but we didn’t push him. Obviously he’s not 100%. If he would be 100%, he would be in the line-up tonight. We would never lie in a situation like this. And the proof is we didn’t lie with the guy that carried this franchise for many years in Jarome Iginla. We scratched him, and you guys knew fully what was going on. We’re not going to start suddenly to play games with Kris Russell.”
Russell last played on February 12 against Anaheim and has sat on the sidelines for six games (and approximately 15 days). For a player to be eligible for the injured reserve, even retroactively, he has to miss three games (or a week), so the fact that Russell hasn’t been placed on the reserve is suspicious. And to counter Hartley’s “Iginla Defense,” that was back when Jay Feaster was general manager and media releases regarding signings and trades included cap hits, contract lengths and conditions on draft picks. It’s not a bad defense, mind you, but there are a few holes in it.
I’d be shocked if Russell played tonight.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Craig Anderson likely starts for Ottawa, who enter the night just four points out of a wild-card spot. He’s 26-20-4 with a 2.75 goals against average and .926 even-strength save percentage. He’s been quite good for Ottawa this season, though the Senators haven’t been consistently good in front of him.
Hold onto your hats, because the Senators are one of just six NHL teams with a worse score-adjusted possession rate than the Flames. Granted, they’re not Colorado-bad, but they’re not very good either. They’re really carried by a good goalie and some fantastic defenders in their top two pairings, but that might not be enough to get them back into the post-season.
Regardless, they’re by far Canada’s best home at having a playoff team.
Oh, and Dion Phaneuf is back in town, wearing #2 for the team from our nation’s capital and playing his first game against the Flames in awhile (and his 9th game against them in his career). He’s got three assists, 24 penalty minutes and a plus-six rating against Calgary in his career.
“I think both teams are going to be playing desperate,” said Phaneuf. “That’s a key word for where we’re at and where they’re at. I expect an energetic game. I expect a game that’s going to be fast-paced. They’ve got lots of speed, as do we. So, these are fun games to play in. You’re playing for extremely crucial points at a time of year where the points are very critical and every point matters.”
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames met Ottawa back at the end of October, in a crazy game where Sam Bennett caught fire offensively and Jonas Hiller got run into and suffered a lower-body injury that put him out of action for a month. The Flames ended up losing 5-4 in a shootout.
All-time, the Flames are 17-12-7 against Ottawa.
HOME ICE HERO
Celebrate the referee, volunteer, time-keeper, organizer or other great person who keeps the
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 are five points up on last-place Edmonton and 12 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild-card spot in the West. The Flames have 44 possible points available to them from here until the end of the regular season. The playoffs are mathematically possible, but not very likely.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are in desperation mode, facing a team that still has a chance to make the playoffs. They’re not quite playing as spoilers yet, but they’re about to creep into that role.
We’ll see how many players that dressed tonight won’t be around for Monday’s game. My personal bet? Three.