FGD 38: Duck hunting (7pm MT, SN 360)

After returning to action against Colorado after their short holiday break, the Calgary Flames have a bit of a tougher task in front of them tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome. This evening they face one of the better teams in the Pacific Division in the form of the Anaheim Ducks. Can the Flames gain some crucial points in their quest to return to the post-season for the first time since 2014-15? Find out tonight!

The action begins shortly after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Johnny GaudreauSam BennettAlex Chiasson
Kris VersteegSean MonahanMicheal Ferland
Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Lance BoumaMatt StajanGarnet Hathaway

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

In a bit of a surprise move, Chad Johnson returns to the net tonight. He’s 13-7-1 with a 2.30 goals against average and .922 save percentage this season. However, Brian Elliott’s started three of the last four games for Calgary and captured their last three wins. The Flames defenders were really challenged by all the big bodies crowding the Flames net during Johnson’s last three starts (against Tampa Bay, Columbus and San Jose), so tonight’s game will be an interesting test to see if they can keep the net-front clear for Johnson.

The Flames got some good news on the injury front yesterday, as Mikael Backlund won’t miss any time after blocking a shot in Calgary’s 6-3 victory over Colorado. That’s excellent, given that he’s anchored Calgary’s best line this season playing between Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk. Troy Brouwer wasn’t as lucky. He’ll join Ladislav Smid on the sidelines for the time-being.

The key for tonight? For the love of all that is good and holy, don’t take penalties! The Ducks have a deadly power play with big, skilled bodies. Don’t give them additional time and space to do damage.

THE DUCKS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Andrew CoglianoRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg
Nick RitchieRyan GetzlafOndrej Kase
Rickard RakellAntoine VermetteCorey Perry
Joseph CramarossaLogan ShawJared Boll

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa
Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Shea TheodoreKorbinian Holzer

Josh Gibson gets the start tonight, making his 27th appearance between the pipes for the Ducks. He’s 11-9-6 with a 2.63 goals against average and .906 save percentage this year. Neither Ducks goalie has been amazing this year, but both have been rock solid. Gibson was unavailable for Calgary’s 8-3 victory over the Ducks in their last trip to the Saddledome due to having the flu.

The Ducks are without Simon Despres, Nate Thompson and Clayton Stoner. They’ll also potentially be without Sami Vatanen tonight, as he has the flu. But he did travel, so a lot of decisions are up in the air for Anaheim. Rookie Brandon Montour was recalled from the AHL’s San Diego Gulls yesterday and may debut tonight. He’s tied for the team lead in scoring for the Gulls, which is pretty impressive for a defender.

This obviously complicates the pairings we’ve posted, so stay tuned during warm-ups.

The key for the Ducks will be getting out to a good start. If they get behind the eight-ball, it could snowball on them like it did in their last trip to Calgary. They’ve been an inconsistent group of late, and we should be able to tell which Ducks team we’ll be getting early on.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES DUCKS
Wins 19 17
Points
(Pct.)
40
(.541)
41
(.569)
Power Play 19.2% 24.1%
Penalty Kill 81.3% 80.8%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 49.6% 49.4%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the 99th regular season battle between these two teams. The Flames have a 38-45-15 record, all-time. Tonight is the third of five meetings this season. The Ducks beat Calgary 4-1 in Anaheim and the Flames beat Anaheim 8-3 in Calgary.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Ducks follows for tonight’s contest:

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

Until the wacky games played differentials are more even, I’m using points percentage to show how the Flames are doing.

Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 11.03.41 PM

A Flames win bumps them to .552 and drops Anaheim to .554, allowing the Flames to close the gap big-time for a divisional playoff spot and leap-frog the Kings entirely. A Flames loss drops them to .526 and bumps Anaheim to .581, dropping the Flames back into the muck.

SUM IT UP

It’s a divisional game with big playoff implications. Considering how rough the Flames looked at the end of October, it’s a borderline miracle that these are the circumstances under which these two clubs meet. The Flames have won a few lately against teams they should be beating. Now, it’s a game against a team they’ll need to be able to beat should they eke into the playoffs.

Sounds like a fun 60 minutes of hockey are ahead.