FGD 27: Running wild (7pm MT, SN West)

About two weeks ago, the Calgary Flames were in rough shape. They were continually taking one step forward, one step back, and had a decent home stand disrupted by a one-sided thumping from the New York Rangers. Their next outing was a road game in Minnesota and despite losing Johnny Gaudreau to injury, the Flames played a solid defensive game and managed to grind out a win. Including that night in Minnesota, the Flames are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. The Flames get a chance to continue their string of good results tonight when the Wild come to visit them. The goal tonight? Perhaps play a bit more often with the puck and defend a bit less than they have had to in recent games.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan! The Flames Better Halves are running their annual toy drive for the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House, in the event you have anything you’d like to contribute.

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
 Kris VersteegSean MonahanTroy Brouwer
 Sam Bennett

Matt StajanAlex Chiasson
Micheal FerlandFreddie HamiltonGarnet Hathaway

Mark GiordanoDougie Hamilton
 T.J. BrodieDennis Wideman
 Jyrki JokipakkaDeryk Engelland

Considering the Flames won on Wednesday, few (if any) changes from that game’s line-up are expected. So that means potential NHL All-Star – if enough of you vote for him – Chad Johnson starts for the 14th time this season. He was superb against Toronto.

The extra healthy bodies for tonight look to be Brett Kulak and Hunter Shinkaruk, while Ladislav Smid, Lance Bouma and Johnny Gaudreau are on the injured reserve.

The Flames have been good in the last 10 games, posting a 6-3-1 record. That said, they haven’t dominated: their Corsi For is 48.3% unadjusted and 49.8% score-adjusted, which generally indicates they’ve carried less than half of play. Their special teams are also better, but not “good.” Their power play has converted 11.5% of advantages in their last 10 (25th in the league) and killed 85.3% of their penalties (15th in the league). They’ve definitely improved from what they were in October, but it’s definitely a stretch to say that the team has turned the corner.

THE WILD

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Zach PariseEric StaalCharlie Coyle
 Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuMikael Granlund
 Nino NiederreiterErik HaulaJason Pominville
 Tyler GraovacZack Mitchell

Chris Stewart

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
 Marco ScandellaJonas Brodin
 Gustav OlofssonMathew Dumba
(Olofsson is the third pairing defender.)

Devan Dubnyk starts for the Wild. He’s one of the best goalies in the NHL so far this year – though his record isn’t as amazing as his underlyings – but he was out-dueled by Johnson when these two teams met last month. Can it happen twice?

The Wild are currently without Zac Dalpe, Christian Folin and Victor Bartley due to injury. They’ve recalled Kurtis Gabriel from the AHL’s Iowa Wild to be an additional body for the remainder of their western road trip…but he could draw in tonight in anticipation of some physicality from the home side.

Last time out, Ryan Suter and Eric Staal were among many, many Wild players that slashed young Johnny Gaudreau in his money-makers – his sick mitts. I don’t expect retribution in this game, if only because the referees are probably expecting it and because I don’t think either team has an appetite for any shenanigans. That said, I’d expect the physicality (in terms of hitting) to be a bit more amped up than the typical Flames/Wild game.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES WILD
Wins 11 11
Points
(Pct.)
24
(.462)
25
(.568)
Power Play 10.1% 18.5%
Penalty Kill 77.3% 82.8%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 49.6% 49.9%

HISTORY LESSON

In 84 past games with the Wild, the Flames hold an impressive 44-26-14 record. They played them back on November 15. Johnny Gaudreau’s finger got mangled with between 11 and 21 slashes (depending on your source), but the Flames won 1-0 anyway. They’ll play one more time in February.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Here are some recommended Wild follows:

SUM IT UP

The Flames need to keep piling up wins to claw their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture. They’re only a few points behind a playoff spot, but they’ve played a lot more games than most of the other teams in the conference. The gap is bigger than it appears, so they need to keep winning and hope that the teams ahead of them stumble. They can help themselves a ton with a victory over Minnesota tonight.