FGD 15: Flickering stars (7pm MT, SN Flames)

Over the weekend, the Calgary Flames played two games that went south on them in a hurry. Playing in Los Angeles and Anaheim on back to back nights, the Flames lost to their divisional foes by a combined 11-1 score. All the bad habits that we saw in the first dozen games of the season were amplified. Now, after a day off and two full days of practices – the most they’ve had this season – the Flames aim to get back in the win column. It’s helpful to their cause that their opponent this evening, the Dallas Stars, have been utterly deluged by injuries and just got lit up by the Winnipeg Jets 8-2 on Tuesday night.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines from Daily Faceoff:

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanAlex Chiasson
Micheal FerlandMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Hunter ShinkarukSam BennettTroy Brouwer
Linden VeyMatt StajanFreddie Hamilton

Mark GiordanoT.J. Brodie
Jyrki JokipakkaDougie Hamilton
Brett KulakDeryk Engelland

After splitting starts over the weekend with Chad Johnson, Brian Elliott will start tonight for the Flames. Aside from a clunky pair of games against Edmonton he hasn’t been bad at all this year. His numbers aren’t amazing – 31st out of 39 goalies who’ve played 5 or more games in even strength save percentage – but some of that is definitely on his teammates.

Matthew Tkachuk (stitches) joins Ladislav Smid (neck), Kris Versteeg (groin) and Lance Bouma (shoulder) on the sidelines, the latter three on various forms of injured reserve. With no Tkachuk tonight, Linden Vey has been called up and will play on the fourth line, wearing #16.

The Flames are coming off a 1-3-0 road trip and they really fell off in their level of play over the last two games in Southern California, losing by a combined 11-1. If you can’t tell from all the stuff we’ve been writing over the past couple days, special teams are a huge focus for the Flames. Head coach Glen Gulutzan seems perfectly content with the team’s even strength play, turnovers aside, but remains disappointed with the special teams groups. If the Flames want to gain any ground in the Pacific Division, they’ll need to help themselves out by scoring goals with the extra man and preventing a few while a man down.

THE STARS

Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff (and Mike Heika):

Jamie BennRadek FaksaLauri Korpikoski

Antoine RousselTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzieDevin ShoreBrett Ritchie
Gemel SmithJUSTIN DOWLINGAdam Cracknell

Dan HamhuisJohn Klingberg
Johnny OduyaStephen Johns
Jamie OleksiakJordie Benn

It sounds like Kari Lehtonen starts for Dallas. He was relieved by Antti Niemi against Winnipeg after giving up four goals. To be honest? Given how each guy played in Winnipeg, it’s basically a coin-toss between the two of ’em. The Stars are in the midst of a long road trip that sees them trek through Chicago, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver before finally returning home for a game on Tuesday against New Jersey.

Dallas is missing Mattias Janmark, Cody Eakin, Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler, Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza, though Spezza traveled to Calgary and skated this morning so he may slot in. The Stars’ depth is being tested right now and it’ll be interesting to see how much of a push they can make against the Flames, and how effectively the Flames can mitigate and isolate their remaining big guns.

In a storyline that will likely be beaten into the ground by the end of the night, this is the team Gulutzan coached for two years before getting axed and moving on to Vancouver. In other local connections: Lauri Korpikoski was in Flames camp with a PTO before signing with Dallas, Adam Cracknell was drafted by the Flames back in 2004 (in a round that doesn’t exist anymore), and young Justin Dowling was with the Abbotsford Heat for his first two years of pro on an AHL deal before joining the Stars organization.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES STARS
Wins 5 4
Points 11 11
Power Play 8.3% 16.7%
Penalty Kill 72.4% 75.0%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 49.0% 49.7%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the 165th meeting between the Flames franchise (including Atlanta) and the Stars franchise (including the original North Stars). The Flames are 73-59-32 all-time against the Stars. They won two of their three games against Dallas last season. The Flames won twice in a 17-day period in December, then lost to Dallas in January. They’ll play three times this year.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Stars follows for tonight:

SUM IT UP

Tonight’s game features two teams that are sorely in need of both points and momentum. It has all the ingredients for a sloppy game, though if the Flames can figure out how to play well at home it might become a bit more tight-checking and one-sided given how injured-riddled Dallas has been.