The Calgary Flames played three games in four nights to open the 2016-17 season. They lost all three of them. Now, after a day off and a day of practice, they’re back to kick off a three game home stand. At the end of the week looms a game with the powerhouse St. Louis Blues. But tonight they kick off their week against the Buffalo Sabres, with the hopes that they’ll be able to knock the cobwebs loose and begin to play like the team many feel they can be.
The action kicks off at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet Flames (with Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).
Lines for this evening, via Daily Faceoff:
After allowing just a single goal in 65 minutes on Saturday in Vancouver, Chad Johnson gets the start against his old team. Fun fact: Johnson started in Calgary last year in a game the Flames won. Sure, he was starting for Buffalo, but it’s probably a good omen.
The big news for tonight’s game is…no changes. The Flames are rolling with the same lines and defensive pairings that they had on Saturday night in Vancouver. Johnson was rock-solid against Vancouver, and presumably the logic in not changing anything else is to provide some stability for the team while they try to get their collective act together.
They have home ice. They’re playing an injury-addled team. They had a day of rest and a day of practice. Everybody’s playing with people they’ve played with before. Now that the hustle and bustle of travel and a series of home openers is all over with, it’s time for them to get down to business.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Robin Lehner most likely starts tonight, making his third start of the year. The Sabres just beat up on Edmonton by a 6-2 score. Buffalo is missing Jack Eichel and special human being Evander Kane due to injuries, but still have Masterton Trophy nominee Ryan O’Reilly in their line-up. He had four points against Edmonton.
Notable names in the Sabres lineup include former WHL superstar Sam Reinhart and former Flame center Derek Grant, who signed with Buffalo this off-season. The team is still a bit wonky in terms of roster construction, but they have a lot of good young players and a good coach in Dan Bylsma. They should be a challenge for a Flames team that’s still finding their footing.
UPDATE: Rookie Nick Baptiste will make his NHL debut tonight for the Sabres.
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Flames and Sabres. They split their two games last year, with the home team winning each game.
All-time, Calgary is 26-32-10 against Buffalo.
SUM IT UP
After a trio of games against traditional division rivals, the Flames get a bit of a breather with a game against Buffalo. With some tough games on the horizon against teams like St. Louis and Chicago, the Flames will need to get their act together if they have any shot of getting out of October with any semblance of a respectable record.
A necessary first step? A strong performance against the Sabres tonight.