(Neville E. Guard / USA Today Sports)
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After a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, the Flames trek out west for the second game of their oddly-constructed four game road trip. On the docket this evening? A date with last season’s Western Conference champions, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are quite good. The Flames have played fairly well over the past few weeks, but haven’t gotten good results in their last two games (losses to Washington and Chicago). Can the Flames turn it around?
The puck drops just after 8:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
We’re seeing some changes tonight on the back-end: fresh off being taken off the power play, Dennis Wideman looks to be sitting tonight. Brett Kulak rotates back in, looking to play alongside Deryk Engelland. They played well together last season (and earlier this season) and it’ll be interesting to see if Kulak’s speed helps against a good Sharks club. Oh, and Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie are back together.
Chad Johnson gets his first start since October 22, giving Brian Elliott a rest after five consecutive starts. Johnson gets his fourth start overall. He’s 1-1-1, with a .901 save percentage. His decent numbers come from playing well behind a team that largely was not, so it’ll be fun to see how he plays when the team in front of him is a bit more confident, structured, and good.
Matthew Tkachuk turns 10 games old tonight, officially marking the beginning of his entry level contract. He’s been one of the bright lights for the Flames this season – along with Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Matt Stajan and Brian Elliott. The Flames’ top four players remain wonky and occasionally frustrating to watch: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano. At some point, these guys have to come alive…right?
Calgary’s special teams continue to be their undoing. Their power play is rough, perhaps a product of their best players not having the best starts to their respective seasons. Everything’s tentative. Players make weird decisions, turn things over, and generally create problems for themselves. The penalty kill has nice pressure, but has a huge vulnerability in terms of the defenders leaving a man open in the slot for deflections.
Needless to say, the Flames are better at even strength than they were to begin the season but they still have a lot of work to do.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Martin Jones was good on Tuesday against Arizona, but Louie Domingue was better and picked up a win. The Sharks look to be going back with Jones tonight, though.
What’s to say about the Sharks? They’re well-coached, they’re well-constructed, they’re pretty deep and they were able to go to the Stanley Cup Final last season. And there hasn’t been any Cup Final hangover for them this season, as they’re off to a really nice start to this season. Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns are scoring at a point-per-game pace, and the Sharks have two others (Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton) who’ve scored more than the top-scoring Flames player. And the Sharks have played one fewer game than Calgary.
The Sharks are good and dangerous. The Flames will need to be as good as they were in the first two periods against Chicago to have a fighting chance tonight.
This is the 113th regular season game between Calgary and San Jose. The Flames are 58-41-13 against the Sharks all-time. Last season, they split their five games with San Jose fairly evenly with a 2-2-1 record. They’ll play five times this season.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Some Sharks follows for tonight’s contest:
SUM IT UP
It’s the Flames first game against a California opponent this season, and their first of three games in four nights in that wonderful region against three tough teams. If they want to make some noise in the Pacific and have a hope in hell of making the post-season, they have to perform well against the California trio.
There’s no better time for that to start than tonight.