96Sean Monahan
Photo Credit: Candice Ward / USA Today Sports

FGD 81: Challenging The Kings (8:30pm MT, SN360)

We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.

The Calgary Flames are going to the Stanley Cup playoffs! The Los Angeles Kings are not. The only thing left to be decided for the Flames are who they’ll be facing in the opening round of the post-season. They can gain a bit of clarity by playing really poorly or playing really well over their last two games of the regular season. Two wins earns them a date with Anaheim. Two losses earns them a date with Chicago. Anything in-between and it gets murky. The Flames take a step towards clarity tonight with a trip to Staples Center and potentially one final game against Jarome Iginla and the Kings.

The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

The big news for the Flames is in net. All indications are that 2012 third rounder Jon Gillies makes his National Hockey League debut (after dressing as back-up against Boston last month). Gillies got the majority of the starts in Stockton this season, but teammate David Rittich actually had better numbers overall. There’s a good chance that either Gillies or Rittich gets a shot at being the back-up in Calgary next season. Consider tonight an audition for the netminder.

Johnny Gaudreau is low-key having a great offensive season. He missed 10 games with a busted-up hand and was basically playing like trash during the first month of the season, yet he’s 35th in the entire NHL in points (and he’s 23rd in points per game). Imagine if he had a full training camp, eh? Gaudreau and Sean Monahan have been oddly quiet over the last couple games, but they’ll need to get some offense going if the Flames are going to finish the season off strong. As a group, the Flames have lost three of their last four games (all against California teams) and you can argue they’ve been pushed around by the Kings and Ducks. If they play their speed game, the way they did against the Sharks, they should be fine.

Here’s what we know right now, roughly half an hour before morning skate, about tonight’s lineup: Chad Johnson and Ladislav Smid are hurt and obviously won’t play. Curtis Lazar will play. Beyond that, there’s a bunch of question marks. We’ll update this will projected lines as soon as they become available, as is tradition for west coast games with later morning skates.

UPDATE: Gillies starts; Wideman in for Stone, F.Hamilton and Lazar in for Bouma and Stajan. Confused by no Rasmus Andersson, though.

THE KINGS

Sunday night’s lines via Daily Faceoff:

Ben Bishop starts for the Kings. He’s 18-14-5 with a 2.50 goals against average and a .922 save percentage overall, but 2-2-2 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .911 save percentage with the Kings. This will be his fifth appearance against the Flames this season between Tampa and Los Angeles; he’s 2-1-1 in his previous four outings against Calgary.

What can we say about the Kings? They’re playing out the string, they’re trying not to get embarrassed, and there’s a non-trivial chance that their coach (Darryl Sutter), general manager (Dean Lombardi) and living legend (Jarome Iginla) won’t be back next year. That’s what happens when you bank on old, slow and physical in a game that’s increasingly fast and skilled these days.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES KINGS
Wins 44 38
Points
(Pct.)
92
(.575)
83
(.526)
Power Play 20.2% 19.0%
Penalty Kill 81.6% 84.7%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.6% 54.5%

HISTORY LESSON

In 234 games against the Kings, the Flames are 118-90-26. This is their final meeting this year (of course), with each team winning twice.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Kings follows for tonight’s contest:

PLAYOFF SEEDING

The Flames and Nashville are tied with 92 points, with Calgary ahead on the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker. A Flames win and a Nashville loss in Dallas would cement Anaheim as Calgary’s first round opponent. Otherwise, things will remain murky until Saturday.

SUM IT UP

The season is almost over! The Flames can cement a specific playoff position by playing very well or very poorly.