(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
What a difference a year makes.
When the Calgary Flames hosted the Los Angeles Kings in Game 81 last season, the game was yet another huge test for a scrappy bunch of Flames that really had no business being in the playoff picture. But they were, and after a gutty win on home ice, they clinched their first playoff spot in years and years. Fans partied, and the Kings had to go home early.
Now? The Flames are booking golf dates for next week and the Kings are headed back to the post-season. The Flames can try to get some semblance of bragging rights back tonight by tripping up the Kings as they try to cement a divisional title. Beyond that? The boys in red don’t have much to play for.
The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Projected lines via your fantasy hockey pals at Daily Faceoff:
Once again, Joni Ortio gets the start for the Flames (making his 21st appearance and 18th start of the season). He’s 6-9-4 with a 2.62 goals against average and .922 even-strength save percentage. Of the 55 goalies with as much even-strength ice-time as Ortio, he’s 34th-best in save percentage. (And that’s playing most of the time with a team looking forward to the summer in front of him.) The Flames look to be without Michael Frolik once more, so Hunter Shinkaruk stays up (and in the line-up) and gets to play his first-ever home game with the Flames.
The Flames just thumped the Oilers on Saturday, proving (at least to themselves) that they can dominate a team if given the opportunity. And the Oilers played really poorly on the weekend and the Flames were savvy enough to take advantage. Can they play spoiler tonight against what’s likely a motivated (and desperate) Kings team? Or will it be another stinker against a California opponent that’s headed to the playoffs?
Projected lines courtesy Daily Faceoff:
With the Kings’ games still full of major playoff consequences, surprisingly Jhonas Enroth gets the nod this evening for Darryl Sutter’s band of merry men. He’s 6-5-1 with a 2.03 goals against average and .943 even-strength save percentage. Before you get too excited: he plays whenever the Kings give Quick a night off to conserve him for the playoffs and as a result, it’s likely he gets lesser lights. Heck, he’s only seen 296 even-strength shots (Ortio has seen 397).
The Kings are without Matt Greene, Marian Gaborik and Alec Martinez right now, though they may get some (or all) of them back for the playoffs. They’re in a dogfight with Anaheim and San Jose for the division title. Winner gets a date with Nashville, while the two teams that don’t get the pennant play each other in the first round. Pick your poison, folks.
Los Angeles has lost six of their last eight. They’ve been missing bodies, but they’ve gotta get back into playoff form really soon or else risk getting bounced early.
WHEN LAST WE MET
This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams in 2015-16. The Kings have won the first three: 4-1 on December 31, 2-1 on February 23 and 3-0 on March 31.
The Flames have a 116-88-25 record against the Kings all-time.
HOME ICE HERO
Our pals at ATB have spent the 2015-16 season honouring Alberta’s home-ice heroes. The contest is closed for this season, but head on over to ATB’s site (or their YouTube channel) and check out the profiles of five well-deserving individuals that make a big difference in their lucky hockey communities!
SUM IT UP
It sure would be a nice moral victory for the Flames if they could (a) steal a win from the Kings this season and (b) potentially cost them a division title and an easier first round playoff match-up, wouldn’t it?