FGD 64: Come at the king, you best not miss (7pm MT, SN1)


(Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports)

It probably goes without saying that tonight’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings is the biggest game of the season for both teams.

Here’s the situation, presuming that the playoff cut-off is 88 points: If the Flames win tonight, a .444 clip over the final 18 games of the season (an 8-10-0 record) gets them into the playoffs and the Kings would need to capture 60% of their remaining points (an 11-7-1 record) to catch them. It’s not impossible, but it’s also incredibly tough given their schedule. The Flames could be mediocre and still make it in, while the Kings would need to kick things into overdrive to catch them.

In essence, a win tonight gets the Flames to the cusp of realistically being a playoff team and a loss means there’s added importance to their remaining three games with the Kings. For the Kings, they need to win this game to keep the Flames within striking distance.

It’s not a playoff game, technically, but it’s the biggest regular season Flames game since the last time they played the Kings (in 2015) with a chance to put their playoff hopes on life support. The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan for this epic clash.

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

 Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanMicheal Ferland

Kris VersteegSam BennettTroy Brouwer

Lance BoumaMatt StajanAlex Chiasson

Mark GiordanoDougie Hamilton
 T.J. BrodieMichael Stone
Matt BartkowskiDeryk Engelland

As has become the style lately for the gentlemen in red sweaters, Brian Elliott starts tonight. He’s 15-13-3 with a 2.75 goals against average and a .899 save percentage. He’s been very good over the past month and is much closer to the goaltender the club thought they were going to be getting when they traded for him at the 2016 NHL Draft.

Aside from the year-long injury to Ladislav Smid, the Flames are healthy. They’ve played really well over the past several weeks, so don’t expect any significant line-up changes for this evening. Dennis Wideman, Jyrki Jokipakka and Dougie Hamilton’s older brother (Freddie) are the healthy extra bodies right now.

This is a big, big game. A win puts the Flames seven points up on Los Angeles. A loss gets the Kings within three points. The Kings need to win this game, while the Flames can make their lives infinitely easier down the stretch with a win tonight. The Flames’ special teams haven’t been great lately, with the power play struggling over the last while and the penalty kill allowing too many goals. If they can get a big game out of their special teams, it’ll go a long way towards cementing their playoff status.

THE KINGS

Yesterday’s lines via Daily Faceoff:

Adrian KempeAnze KopitarDustin Brown
Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTyler Toffoli
Marian GaborikNic DowdKyle Clifford
Dwight KingNick ShoreTrevor Lewis

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
Jake MuzzinKevin Gravel
Brayden McNabbAlec Martinez

Fresh off his trade from Tampa Bay (and from working the gate last night in Minnesota), Ben Bishop makes his debut for the Kings. He posted a 16-12-3 record with a 2.55 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. If you look at the NHL’s 47 goalies who’ve played 20 or more games, Bishop is 22nd in even strength save percentage – so he’s basically “average” among goaltenders this year.

The Kings played last night in Minnesota against the Western Conference’s top dogs, the Wild. Despite missing Jason Pominville and Zach Parise due to the mumps, the Wild beat Los Angeles in overtime 5-4. The Kings don’t usually score that much and went all-out… and still only got a point. This won’t be an easy game, but the Flames will have momentum and rest on their side. If they can push the pace and play a structured game, they have a shot.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES KINGS
Wins 33 30
Points
(Pct.)
70
(.556)
65
(.524)
Power Play 19.8% 16.7%
Penalty Kill 80.3% 84.5%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.8% 54.8%

HISTORY LESSON

In 231 head to head games with Los Angeles, the Flames are 116-89-26. This is the second of five games between these teams this year. The Kings thumped them 5-0 at Staples Center in their last meeting.

MAGIC NUMBERS

A Flames regulation win drops the Flames magic number to 16 (down by 1 because they would get a regulation win and down by 1 because of the LA regulation loss).

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Kings follows for tonight’s contest:

      SUM IT UP

      It’s a massive, massive game for both teams. The Flames can make their lives easier – and their playoff hopes much more tangible – with a strong 60 minute effort that ends with them capturing two points.