(Candice Ward / USA Today Sports)
Last season, the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets were in the playoffs. Unfortunately, both teams were dispatched by the Anaheim Ducks. Even more unfortunately, both teams followed up last season’s success by falling flat on their faces this season.
The 2014-15 season ended with an all-Canadian battle between two playoff-bound teams. The 2015-16 campaign winds down with these two teams clashing in a tank battle between the National Hockey League’s 27th and 28th-ranked teams. Each team is hoping to build some good habits for their young players as the season winds down. But they’re also likely hoping to better their draft position.
Who will win? Who will lose? Who will TANK? Find out tonight at 8pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan! It’s a special late start time – condolences to our print media friends with deadlines – as there’s a national double-header that begins with the similarly-disappointing Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens facing at 5pm MT on the Sportsnet national feed.
Projected lines from Daily Faceoff:
Joni Ortio starts tonight. He’s 3-7-3 with a 3.03 goals against average and a .907 even-strength save percentage. He’s been pretty decent, though not amazing. The Flames are still without Karri Ramo, Ladislav Smid, T.J. Brodie and Sam Bennett, but they keep chugging along. Sean Monahan is reportedly banged up and missed practice yesterday, so the Flames recalled Freddie Hamilton. He’s officially a game-time decision, and will reportedly wear #25 if he plays. His presence would throw all the lines into disarray, so keep an eye on my Twitter around 7:40 for warm-up.
The Flames have points in four of their last five games (going 3-1-1), but prior to that they won a single game in their previous 11 – which is why they’re down in the basement area of the league’s standings. Their special teams are pretty bad – five power-play goals-for offset by seven against over the last 10 games – and their even-strength play is decent but fairly inconsistent.
That said, they’ve beaten some pretty good teams in Pittsburgh, Nashville and St. Louis lately, so who knows what team will show up: the one that plays up to their competition or the one that plays down to them?
Projected lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Michael Hutchinson likely starts tonight for the visitors. He’s 8-13-2 with a 2.95 goals against average and a .904 even-strength save percentage. The Jets are without Grant Clitsome and Mark Stuart, but otherwise are healthy. They just haven’t seen their young guns click this season.
The Jets have won back-to-back games, but they’ve been a pretty streaky team lately: prior to the two wins they had three losses, a win, three more losses, a win, and four losses. They’re incredibly streaky, and usually not in a good way.
Wouldn’t it be cool if they drafted Keith Tkachuk’s kid?
Anyway, the Jets are feeling good about themselves right now, but I’m extremely curious if they can maintain consistency for a third straight game.
WHEN LAST WE MET
This is the third and final meeting between Calgary and Winnipeg this season. Each side has won once, with the home team winning every game. Winnipeg beat Calgary 3-1 in October, but the Flames won 4-1 at home before Christmas by way of a Johnny Gaudreau hat-trick.
The Flames are 11-9-1 against Jets 2.0, all-time.
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
Toronto won yesterday, so the Flames are just four points out of dead-last. Minnesota got a point for a regulation tie yesterday, so the Flames are 12 points back of the last playoff spot. The “tragic number” for Calgary’s playoff elimination is any combination of 7 Flames losses or Minnesota wins.
SUM IT UP
This shall be a tank battle for the ages.