73
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FGD 78: Shark hunting (7pm MT, SN West)

Five games remain for the Calgary Flames in the 2016-17 regular season. Their survival into the post-season is almost a certainty. Tonight, the Flames try to officially punch their ticket against the San Jose Sharks in the second of six consecutive games between the local club and the three California hockey teams.

After all of the emotion and ballyhoo of the Matthew Tkachuk/Drew Doughty affair and the likely final visit of Jarome Iginla to the ‘Dome, the Flames are likely hoping for a more businesslike approach as they try to rein in some bad habits and gain a crucial two points. Not only are they hoping to get an X next to their name in the standings, they’d sure like to improve their playoff position while they’re at it.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Despite taking the loss against the Kings, Glen Gulutzan is turning back to Brian Elliott to get a big W this evening. He’s 25-15-3 with a 2.51 goals against average and a .911 save percentage this season. He’s gotten the Flames this far. Can he get them over the hump and help them clinch a playoff spot tonight?

Don’t expect many changes for the Flames lineup-wise, as they fundamentally are going to dance with the lines that got them this far. That means that the challenge for tonight is for the 3M Line and the Gaudreau trio to get back to what made them successful rather than trying to get into a slugfest with a bigger team. Especially against the Sharks, the Flames are only going as far as their top six can take them.

Another key for tonight: special teams. The power play had six chances on Wednesday and scored zero goals. They need to make hay where they can, and their lives will be much easier if they can score on the power play.

THE SHARKS

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Since Martin Jones started in the Sharks 3-2 loss in Edmonton last night, presumably Aaron Dell starts tonight. Dell only ever starts in back-to-back situations, with 16 of his 18 starts coming in either the front or back end of a back-to-back. He’s 10-6-1 with a 2.09 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. The Airdrie native picked up the loss against the Flames back in January.

Here’s what we think we know about the Sharks lineup tonight: Logan Couture is hurt and probably won’t play. The Sharks extras last night were Marcus Sorensen, Kevin LaBanc and Dylan Demelo. We’ll probably see some minor lineup tweaks, but given the importance of this game in the standings it doesn’t seem likely that the Sharks will blow up their lines. That said, they’ve lost seven of their last eight games so it’s not like everything they’re doing has been working lately.

The Oilers were really good last night. And the Sharks almost came back in the third period to force overtime. The Flames will need to be sharp to get two points.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES SHARKS
Wins 43 43
Points
(Pct.)
90
(.584)
93
(.604)
Power Play 19.8% 17.1%
Penalty Kill 81.2% 80.8%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.8% 51.9%

HISTORY LESSON

In 115 prior regular season meetings, the Flames are 60-42-13 against San Jose. This is the fourth of five meetings between the two teams, and the Flames have won two of the three games played so far. They’ll play one more time on April 8 in San Jose.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Sharks follows for tonight’s contest:

My cousin is a Sharks fan and named one of his cats after Joe Pavelski. It’s a very soft cat.

MAGIC NUMBERS

The Flames enter tonight’s game with a magic number of 1. That means a Flames win of any kind (regulation, overtime or shootout) clinches a playoff berth. Or a Kings loss in Vancouver later tonight.

SUM IT UP

Once again, the Flames can punch their ticket to the post-season. Once again, they’ll need to play a strong 60 minutes of ice hockey to do so.