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.

  • Chiz

    Still need a first line winger to try and get Johnny and Mony going again, like they were with Hudler. Would Hudler be a fit again? Pending UFA… Also, Vanek is another pending UFA winger.

  • pcj42

    Lineup should be looking a little more like this.

    Johnny, Monahan, Versteeg |
    Chucky, Backlund, Frolik |

    Ferland, Bennett, Brouwer |

    Bouma, Stajan, Chiasson |

    Gio, Hamilton |

    Kulak, Brodie |

    Jokipakka, Engelland |

    Elliot, Johnson

    • Newbietwo

      Johnny and. Versteeg cannot play on the same line and especially not with Moneyman as the centre because they will get killed possession wise and defensively..

      • Lucky 13

        Although I see your point, we do have last change. What do you suggest?
        If offensive lack of production is hurting us, do we shuffle our most important line? 3M without Tkachuk and have him play with Johnny on the right side?

        He’s a possession monster and is always involved in the play….as someone already stated “there are no passengers “when he’s playing on the ice.

    • Lucky 13

      Agreed. Generating offence has been our problem last seven games… 9 goals in seven!

      I’m getting frustrated with GG’s penchant for Chiasson with Johnny.
      I like your lineup and Versteeg is a play-maker, Chiasson is a defensive first player.

      Kulak needs to be slotted in … his numbers suggest he’s a better fit for offensive play and he is sound enough defensively.

      If we are going to make a push to be in the playoffs instead of finishing 9th, we need to make the necessary changes, but what do I know?

      Anyway GFG!

  • PrairieStew

    Thanks to the NHL’s loser point system, reporting the all time head to head records is pretty deceiving. 15-9 -5 for the Flames looks pretty good, until you realize that reporting it in the other direction means the Panthers have 14 wins in those 29 games – 9 in regulation and 5 in OT/SO. Florida would be 14-x-y, where x+y = 15. Potentially 14-8-7 would mean they have garnered the same number of points .

    Pet peeve of the day !

    • Avalain

      This bothers me too. So I checked it out and actually the Panthers are 11-15-3 against us, where the 3 is a tie. So in other words, 15-9-5 actually takes OT losses and pre-lockout ties and adds them together to get the 5. That means that we really have no clue how good or bad the record actually is.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I feel bad for the 4th liners, both Hamilton and Bouma with goals called back. When you only score a 4-5 goals a year these a big for the players. At least the called back goals did not impact the game.

    Does anyone else feel Bouma should have a chance to replace Chiasson on Johnny’s line. No disrespect to Chaisson but a lot of Johnny’s pointless streak has a lot to do with his lack of finish.

    • everton fc

      Bouma’s a LW/Centre. Never happening.

      I’d rather see Versteeg. And it could happen, if one of Ferland or Bouma slots into the 3rd line/LW slot. Move Chiasson down to 4th line, and you have Ferland/Bouma-Stajan-Chiasson. Pretty good looking 4th line, “on paper”.

      It pains me to think we are paying Brouwer so much to be a 3rd line RW. He’s not better than Versteeg. And he’s not a good fit w/Bennett (Versteeg, again, might be if they had Chiasson [perhaps], on RW. But what to do w/Brouwer, in that scenario?)

      Unrelated… Offencively, in terms of forwards, we are not deep on the farm. Jankowski, Klimchuk, Mangiapane, Shinkaruk (maybe)… After that – Poirier appears a bust, Pribyl’s still an unknown… Bollig hjas more goals than Poirier, in less games.

      Vey’s not a prospect. Hamilton is not ever going to be more than he is right now. Outside the four mentioned above, and Hathaway… It’s pretty bare on the farm.

  • MontanaMan

    Got to be honest – Gaudreau is a baby. Every time he gets touched he’s grabbing a body part, complaining to the refs, or heading to the dressing room. Yes he’s small but he needs to toughen up. Guys like him lose respect from the opposition, the refs and their own teammates.

  • Parallex

    We need a Crack special forces team to pull an op and retrieve whatever compromising photos Chiasson has of Gulutzan… there is no reason whatsoever he should play that high in the lineup otherwise.

    • freethe flames

      Don’t blame GG he can only play what he has available to him. If you think that either Steeg or brouwer have played better than Chaisson the last few games you need to get off the Crack. Steeg has been invisible of late and has been missing in action for much of the season. Chaisson is not a top 6 forward but neither are these other 2 and at least he plays hard most shifts.

  • everton fc

    We have to sign Versteeg. Or, perhaps they have a deal w/him already to come back after the Expansion Draft?

    (Are we still all on board about firing Cameron? Lousy PP, indeed!)

  • freethe flames

    Play like you did against Edmonton and you probably win, play like you did against NJ and you probably lose. This is one of those games this teams needs to win. Shuffling lines will make little difference as every combo is made up of the same 12 of 14 forwards and frankly we are 2 or 3 forwards short of being a good team. Time for some non producers to find their game again.