(Candice Ward / USA Today Sports)
As the season winds down, it’s a bit fitting that Jarome Iginla’s Colorado Avalanche are visiting. The Avalanche are deep in the playoff hunt, and actually hold the hammer right now regarding the Flames tenuous playoff hopes. More than likely, the Flames will be eliminated from the post-season within a week or so. That said, they’ve been playing good hockey of late and a visit from their old friend can provide a glimpse of what the team once was – a veteran-laden group – and hopefully drive their motivation to transform into what they want to become – a consistent playoff team.
The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Once again, Joni Ortio gets the start. He allowed just a single goal in Calgary’s win over Winnipeg on Wednesday evening. In 15 previous appearances, he’s 4-7-3 with a 2.87 goals against average and .912 even-strength save percentage. The Flames will be without Karri Ramo, Ladislav Smid, Dennis Wideman and Sam Bennett for this evening’s contest, but T.J. Brodie returns in place of Wideman, so it’s not all bad. Niklas Backstrom dresses as back-up for the first time.
The Flames are 3-1-1 over the first five games of this big six-game homestand, and have been playing pretty well since the trade deadline. Their penalty kill has been pretty good, with Frolik and Backlund generating many chances, and their power play has had good puck movement, though they probably wish they could score more goals. If the Flames can solve their recurring issues getting the puck out of their own end with efficiency, perhaps these last dozen games could be a useful time for auditioning youngsters and smoothing out rough areas in their systems.
Projected lines from the fine folks at Daily Faceoff:
Semyon Varlamov gets the start for the Avalanche tonight. He’s 25-18-3 with a 2.65 goals against average and .924 even-strength save percentage. He’s been good but not great for Colorado this season, and at times has suffered from the fact that the Avs aren’t a great possession team and they often don’t score a ton. But they’ve been good enough to stay with the playoff pack. Colorado’s without Matt Duchene tonight due to a lower body injury, so expect the lines to get tweaked a bit when they do hit the ice.
Tonight’s just the eighth game Jarome Iginla has ever played against the Flames. He’s got six points through seven games. He’s going to be 39 in the summer, but he keeps chugging along. His next goal will be his 20th of this season, and it’ll be the 17th season in his illustrious career that he’s scored 20+ goals. The guy is an absolute legend, and much like with Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur, we’re beginning to get to the “this trip to Calgary could be his last” territory.
The Avalanche are mired in a battle for the last Western playoff spot with the Minnesota Wild, who got thumped by New Jersey 7-4 last night. Colorado has one more point than the Wild and they’ve both played 71 games. This is a hugely important game for Colorado.
WHEN LAST WE MET
This is the third and final match-up between these two clubs this year, and their first meeting in Calgary. The Avalanche thumped Calgary 6-3 in November, then were shut out 4-0 in early January.
All-time, Calgary is 70-57-27 against the Avalanche franchise.
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
The Flames are six points up on Toronto for last place in the NHL and 11 points behind Colorado for the final Western playoff spot. The “tragic number” for Calgary’s elimination is 6.5 – any combination of 6.5 Calgary losses or Colorado wins. A Colorado regulation win tonight really trims down Calgary’s slim playoff chances.
HOME ICE HERO
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SUM IT UP
It should be a fun evening. Jarome Iginla’s in town! T.J. Brodie’s back! And the Flames can end their last homestand with a pretty good record and potentially kick off the last stretch of the season with some positive energy,
Either that or they lose, and get themselves a bit closer to a great draft pick. It’s win-win, basically.