(Raj Mehta / USA Today Sports)
After all the hubbub of the National Hockey League trade deadline, life goes on for the Calgary Flames tonight as they host the Detroit Red Wings. It’s the one and only visit this season from the Wings, who dove headlong into rebuild mode on Wednesday by selling off a few pieces. The Wings are a young team full of pep and energy but this is a game the Flames should have, and ultimately need to have if they hope to be a playoff team.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan! For the fans heading to the game, it’ll be Western Night at the Saddledome.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Brian Elliott starts once again for the Flames, as the team’s on a roll and he’s been very good during their winning stretch. He’s 16-13-3 with a 2.69 goals against average and .901 save percentage. That’s right, Elliott has kicked and screamed his way to a save percentage north of .900 and is now a .500 goalie in terms of wins and losses. His turnaround has been one big reason for Calgary’s great last month (or so).
The Flames aren’t making any changes for tonight, so your healthy scratches are Dennis Wideman, Freddie Hamilton and newcomer Curtis Lazar. Don’t expect the Flames to do too much to upset the apple cart. There probably won’t be any changes until they have a really awful game.
The Flames were tied with Washington and the Rangers with 19 points captured in February, tops in the entire NHL over that month. All that even though their special teams have been rather unremarkable, particularly their power play. If either side of their special teams can heat up again, though, watch out.
THE RED WINGS
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
It sounds like Petr Mrazek gets the start for Detroit. He’s 15-16-6 with a 2.95 goals against average and .903 save percentage this season. He’s taken the reins for the Wings this season in the absence of the injured Jimmy Howard and the results have been rather uneven. He hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t quite found his stride.
It’s a thin lineup for Detroit. In addition to missing Howard, they’re without Johan Franzen, Joe Vitale, Jonathan Ericsson and Tyler Bertuzzi. They also shipped out Thomas Vanek, Tomas Jurco, Steve Ott and Brendan Smith before the deadline, so tonight is basically the Flames against the Grand Rapids Griffins and a few other established NHLers. The Flames cannot afford to take this game lightly, though, as these are points that they absolutely need to cement a playoff spot.
In 157 previous games between the Flames and Detroit, Calgary has a thin 69-67-21 record. The Flames beat Detroit earlier in the season during their monstrous eastern road trip.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Some Red Wings follows for y’all tonight:
The Flames enter tonight with a magic number of 16.5. Any combination of 16.5 Flames wins or Kings losses clinches a playoff berth.
SUM IT UP
The Flames kick off their final 18 games of the season with a winnable game against a team that’s going to miss the playoffs. They need to take charge of this game and capture some points, because the schedule gets much tougher later in March.