After a zany, long road trip out east, the Calgary Flames are back! And they’ve brought some of the Eastern Conference with them, as their first game at the Scotiabank Saddledome in a couple of weeks involves a visit from everyone’s favourite hockey club, the Toronto Maple Leafs. That means we get an up-close look at Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and a laundry list of youngsters that we’ve been hearing so much about all season. The Flames will also be appearing, I’m told.
The action gets going earlier than usual tonight, with a 6:30 p.m. MT puck drop (primarily so that Sportsnet can cater to their Eastern time zone viewers that are in bed when the Western teams play). The game is on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. As a bonus, friend of the site (and all-around hockey all-star) Harnarayan Singh debuts as the in-arena host for tonight’s Sportsnet broadcast.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Chad Johnson returns to the net tonight, making his 13th start of the season and his eighth start in the last 10 games. As of tonight, he and Brian Elliott will have split starts this season 50/50. Is Johnson the starter now? He’s amassed seven of Calgary’s 10 wins, so he’s making a damn good case for it.
Shinkaruk, Jankowski, Kulak last off this morning. Looks like they’ll be your healthy scratches tonight. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) November 30, 2016
Based on this, Jokipakka gets rewarded for a decent game against the Islanders with a second game after being a scratch for awhile. The really effective Flames fourth line (Ferland/Hamilton/Hathaway) likely returns after two-thirds of the line was scratched in Brooklyn. Hathaway is definitely in, while Glen Gulutzan is reportedly pondering another game-time decision (likely between Mark Jankowski and Freddie Hamilton).
The Flames will need to play a smart, measured game against the Leafs tonight. They’ve played generally quite well over the last while, but will need more out of their stars and more out of their special teams if they hope to keep their successes rolling.
Yesterday’s lines via Daily Faceoff:
It’s a back-to-back situation for the Leafs, who beat Edmonton 4-2 last night. Before you get too excited, remember that the Leafs are pretty good and them starting Frederik Andersen last night doesn’t mean the Flames get back-up Jhonas Enroth tonight. Andersen’s started 12 of the last 13 Leafs games.
Enroth starts for Leafs.
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) November 30, 2016
The Leafs don’t have Nathan Horton or Joffrey Lupul available due to injury. Peter Holland was left in Toronto due to a dispute with Leafs management, so their extra bodies available right now are Martin Marincin and (free) Frank Corrado. Any tinkering that’s done line-up wise will be on the blueline.
If you haven’t heard Toronto has oodles of young talent, headlined by names like Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. They’re fast, they’re good with the puck, and arguably the best way to beat them is to try to slow them down and grind it out. In other words: expect the Flames to play this like a road game.
The last time these two teams met in Calgary, Nazem Kadri and Mark Giordano didn’t get along. Kadri ended up getting a fine and a stern lecture from the league for his gestures.
In 130 previous regular season outings against the Leafs, the Flames are 61-56-13. Last season the Flames split their two games with Toronto; they beat the Leafs in Calgary but lost in Toronto. The win in Calgary was last season’s post-Super Bowl “all the Flames young stars are scratched” game. These clubs will meet again in January at the Air Canada Centre, where the Flames haven’t won since 2011.
KNOW THY ENEMY
There are roughly 75 million people on Twitter that talk about the Leafs. Tonight, the half of the accounts you follow about the Flames and the half that tweet about the Leafs will collide. Here are the Leafs accounts to keep an eye on:
SUM IT UP
It’s sure to be a spirited atmosphere in the ‘Dome tonight as the Leafs make their one trip to Calgary of the season. Odds are there will be a little bit more blue than red in the stands, which should make this quite the interesting contest. Regardless of what happens in the stands, the Flames remain in a situation where they absolutely need to get wins to stay alive in the playoff hunt.