After a super-quick single game home-stand, the Calgary Flames are on the road again for their final big trip of the 2015-16 season. To kick off this four-game sojourn, the Flames head to fabulous Glendale, Arizona to play the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena in a game with no real implications for either team.
The Coyotes are playing well and are well out of the playoffs and ahead of the lottery pack. The Flames are in the midst of the lottery pack, but will be hard-pressed to catch teams like Edmonton or Toronto in the league’s basement. The game may be rather meaningless, but several Flames have the chance to hit milestones and career-bests, and many of them may feel they’re auditioning for future employment.
Speaking of auditioning? Tonight’s game features no fewer than three new faces to the Flames line-up, due to a slew of recalls from earlier in the day from the AHL’s Stockton Heat.
The puck drops at 8pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Joni Ortio starts. He’s 4-8-4 with a 2.81 goals against average and .909 even-strength save percentage. He’s been pretty decent over the last little stretch for the Flames. However, bear this in mind: of the 57 goaltenders who have played as much at even-strength as he has, there are only 7 that have worse even-strength save percentages. He’s been good, but let’s maintain some perspective here.
In terms of line-up news: Josh Jooris skated yesterday, but Jyrki Jokipakka was absent. The Flames re-assigned Garnet Hathaway and Freddie Hamilton to Stockton and summoned Derek Grant, Brett Kulak, Hunter Shinkaruk and Emile Poirier from Stockton. The presence of three bodies on emergency recall means that three regulars could (or will) be out tonight, and that will make tonight’s game a bit of a wacky adventure for everybody involved.
Update: Sounds like it’s Gaudreau, Hathaway and Jokipakka OUT, Poirier, Grant, Shinkaruk and Kulak IN for tonight.
Aside from their recent games in Toronto and Minnesota, the Flames have played pretty smart, consistent, 200-foot hockey. If not for a few miscues here and there – and a lack of ability to bury power-play chances – they’d likely have a few more wins. As it stands, they’re likely to have a pretty decent draft pick and a pretty good final stretch of hockey to look back upon when this season comes to an end.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Mike Smith likely starts for Arizona. He’s 14-10-1 with a 2.68 goals against average and .931 even-strength save percentage. Smith struggled with consistency last season and has been pretty damn good this season, when he hasn’t been hurt.
The Coyotes have been a streaky team as of late; they’ve won three in a row, but prior to that lost a pair (and prior to that they won another three). They’ve been playing pretty well, and Mike Smith’s goaltending has steadied a rather shaky ship out in Glendale. The frustrating part is that the Coyotes fell from the playoff pack, but didn’t fall far enough to join the lottery group. They’re going to be one of those frustrated teams that is too bad to be considered a “good” team, but not bad enough to get much help at the NHL Draft.
WHEN LAST WE MET
This is the fifth and final meeting between the Flames and Arizona. The Flames have lost every single meeting: 2-1 (in overtime) in November, 2-1 in January, 4-1 in February and 4-1 in March.
All-time, the Flames are 87-72-27 against the Coyotes/Jets 1.0 franchise.
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
SUM IT UP
Tonight will be an interesting game for Calgary with so many new faces entering the line-up, and it could be a great opportunity for those new faces to make an impression on Flames management.
Not bad for a sleepy, late-season game in Glendale.