(David Banks / USA Today Sports)
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Just over a week ago, the Calgary Flames headed on a tough two game road trip that saw them headed to Chicago and St. Louis. Their goal? Find some consistency to their game and perhaps, somehow, get some points out of the tough back-to-back assignment. The Flames did even better than expected, capturing four points from their conference foes and working a lot of the sloppiness out of the game.
Now, eight days after their shootout win over Chicago, the Flames are back in the Windy City to take on the Blackhawks. A win pushes the 4-5-1 Flames back to .500 just in time for a three game sojourn west to face their three California divisional foes in San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. Coming off a good effort but a disappointing result against Washington on Sunday, the Flames are hoping to keep their good habits rolling along.
The puck drops just after 6:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Coming off four strong efforts that saw the Flames capture three of a possible four wins, Brian Elliott starts once more tonight. He’s played quite well and has been a steadying influence on the Flames. His even-strength save percentage is now .929, 17th among the 43 goalies that have played 3 or more games. He’s come a long way from the wonky early outings, but so has the team in terms of defensive zone play.
Lineup isn’t set for tonight. Someone is sick, according to Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. But he wouldn’t say who. #mysteries
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) November 1, 2016
Based on morning skate, it seems like the first power play unit will be Wideman-less: Troy Brouwer practiced as part of a four-forward, one defender unit that included Monahan, Bennett, Gaudreau and Brodie. The second unit (Tkachuk/Backlund/Versteeg with Hamilton & Giordano on the point) seems unchanged.
Tonight will be Matthew Tkachuk’s 9th game of the season and barring anything unforeseen, his audition will continue from here with his entry-level contract officially beginning to run. He’s been a really solid addition to the Flames top nine group of forwards, and he was very effective on the left side of Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik against Washington.
What can we say about Calgary’s special teams that we haven’t said already? They’re not all that good. In the four games beginning with the last outing in Chicago, the Flames power play has been out-scored by the opposition’s power play by a 4-3 margin. It’s an improvement over the previous six games, where they were out-scored 8-1, but it’s still one of the major reasons they’re having trouble winning hockey games.
A big reason for the power play’s struggles? Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau haven’t been all that good. They’ll need to step things up, and quickly, for the Flames to remain competitive in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, Corey Crawford starts tonight for Chicago. He’s been good for the Hawks so far this season, but not quite great. Well, not yet, at least.
Since we last saw Chicago, they have shuffled their lines a bit and reunited Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line. The Kane line was the only one that was scary against the Flames last week, and perhaps putting all their eggs in one basket could make the task for the Flames a little bit easier. Expect the Backlund and Stajan lines to see a lot of defensive zone starts (and a lot of Toews and Kane) tonight.
This is the 166th regular season contest between the Flames and Blackhawks franchises. The Flames have a record of 66-68-31 all-time. This is the second of three meetings between the two clubs; the Flames won in a shootout eight days ago. They play once more in Calgary on November 18 to cap off their season series.
KNOW THY ENEMY
There are a ton of interesting Blackhawk follows:
A word of warning: the Cubs are playing in Game 6 of the World Series tonight and they need to win to stay alive. Expect tons of nervous tweeting from Cubs fandom from all over Twitter, myself included.
SUM IT UP
It’s a big game for the Flames tonight, as they embark on a big road trip against four important conference foes. They’ve proven that if they play a smart, composed road game they can beat Chicago. Can they pull off that feat for the second time in just over a week?