FGD 47: Invasion of the fancy cats (7pm MT, SN West)

The Calgary Flames face an interesting test tonight in their quest for a return to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Suddenly losers of four of their last six games, the Flames will host the Florida Panthers this evening at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Panthers are a talented, young bunch (for the most part) and in terms of their standing in the East are basically that conference’s version of the Flames. They’re not perfect, but they’re about as good as Calgary is – maybe a tad better – and so tonight will be a big test for the home side.

The game begins just after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanAlex Chiasson
Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Kris VersteegSam BennettTroy Brouwer
Lance BoumaMatt StajanMicheal Ferland

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

Chad Johnson returns in net for the Flames after Brian Elliott started against Edmonton. He’s 15-10-1 with a 2.25 goals against average and .924 save percentage. Elliott was excellent against the Oilers, but Johnson has been the more consistent goaltender for the Flames this season. The Flames face Nashville on Thursday in a game I’d expect Johnson to start, but we could see Elliott against Edmonton on Saturday given how well he played over the weekend.

After missing a couple games out with a lower body injury, Micheal Ferland returns to the lineup tonight. He’ll take the spot of Garnet Hathaway, who has an upper body injury and is out for the short term. No other changes are expected tonight, so Brett Kulak and Freddie Hamilton will munch on popcorn in the press box.

The Flames need to generate more offense at even strength. The Oilers only gave them one power play and the word is out on the Flames: their power play is scary good, so just don’t take penalties against them. Aside from the 3M Line, the Flames have struggled to consistently generate pressure, chances and goals five on five. They’ll need more from the Sean Monahans, Johnny Gaudreaus and Sam Bennetts of their roster if they want to make a push for a playoff spot down the stretch.

THE PANTHERS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Seth GriffithVincent TrocheckJaromir Jagr
Jonathan MarchessaultJussi JokinenReilly Smith
Jared McCannMichael SgarbossaColton Sceviour
Paul ThompsonDerek MacKenzieShawn Thornton

Keith YandleMark Pysyk
Michael MathesonJason Demers
Jakub KindlAaron Ekblad

Roberto Luongo looks to make the start tonight for the Panthers. He’s 13-11-5 with a 2.40 goals against average and .922 save percentage this season. He’s been rock-solid for the fancy cats this year and has been part of a really nice tandem with James Reimer.

The Panthers have been inundated with injuries this season. Right now they’re without Jonathan Huberdeau, Alex Petrovic, Aleksander Barkov, Greg McKegg and Nick Bjugstad. Despite all of this, the team’s depth has been on display because they really haven’t fallen off to the degree you’d think they would. If some of their key guys can get healthy before the end of the season, the Panthers are well-positioned for the playoffs.

As for tonight’s game? The Panthers aren’t really bad at anything. They’ve got good structure and have a few guys on their roster that can really hurt you if you give them a chance – notably the ageless Jaromir Jagr. The Flames will need a strong 60 minutes to get points out of this game.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES PANTHERS
Wins 23 20
Points
(Pct.)
49
(.533)
48
(.533)
Power Play 20.3% 14.9%
Penalty Kill 81.2% 85.3%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.0% 51.4%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the 30th regular season meeting ever between Calgary and Florida. The Flames are 15-9-5 thus far against the Panthers. The teams split their two meetings last season, with the home team winning each game. They’ll meet again in Florida in late February.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Your Panthers follows for this evening:

SUM IT UP

It’s the Flames against their Eastern Conference doppelgangers! With a bunch of losses on their record from the past few games, Calgary needs wins like the fancy cats need saucers of milk. They’ll need to play a complete 60 minutes of solid hockey to get that win.