(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
Don’t look now, but the “tanking” Calgary Flames have points in three consecutive games (2-0-1) and have been playing some damn good ice hockey since the trade deadline. Whether it’s their true nature or just the pressure being off, but perhaps they’re finally developing some habits that can be ported over to next season.
Regardless, they hope to finally get a win this season against the Arizona Coyotes tonight. By odd coincidence, they swept last season’s series with the Coyotes. Life’s strange like that. Anyway, Arizona was once in the Pacific Division lead but has quietly slid far, far down the standings. They might not get Auston Matthews, nor will they get a playoff spot.
The puck drops after 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Good seats, I’m told, are still available.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Joni Ortio starts for the 10th time this season, a milestone many thought would never come. He’s 2-6-3 with a 2.93 goals against average and .903 even-strength save percentage. The Flames seem hell-bent on riding Ortio down the stretch, which will probably result in him becoming a restricted free agent since he’ll likely get enough games in. The team is without (deep breath, everyone) G Karri Ramo, D Ladislav Smid, D Dennis Wideman, D T.J. Brodie and F Sam Bennett for this evening’s festivities.
Welcome back, Kenny Agostino. He wears #51 and slots in on the second line, because the Flames only really have five “top-six” players on their roster and one of them is injured, so the lines are a bit of a mish-mash. Similarly, they only have three “top-four” blueliners, so the pairings are also a hodge-podge. But we get another chance to see a lot of Jyrki Jokipakka, who has impressed thus far.
Projected lines from Daily Faceoff:
Louie Domingue starts for the 32nd time. He’s quietly emerged as a pretty good goalie for the Coyotes this season. He’s 13-15-5 with a 2.77 goals against average and .922 even-strength save percentage this year. The big problem for Domingue has been goal support.
Oh, and the Coyotes are probably without Oliver Ekman-Larsson tonight which is not great for their chances to win, as he’s their best player and leading scorer and just overall a tremendous hockey player. His absence will see them crash further down the standings.
WHEN LAST WE MET
This is the fourth of five meetings between Calgary and Arizona. The Flames have lost all three of their previous meetings: 2-1 (in overtime), 2-1 (in regulation) and 4-1 (in embarrassment).
All-time, the Flames are 87-71-27 against Arizona.
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 six points up on Toronto for last place and 13 points behind Colorado for the last playoff spot. Their “tragic number” for elimination from the playoffs is 8.5 Flames losses or Colorado wins.
A Flames regulation win wouldn’t see them pass Arizona, as the Coyotes have more head-to-head points.
SUM IT UP
Can the Flames play four good games in a row? With the pressure off and the home crowd behind them, along with some fresh energy from a few new faces, I wouldn’t bet against them.