The Calgary Flames (11-8-0) had a brunch-time game in Philadelphia on Saturday. They played badly in the first period, then woke up and powered themselves to a 5-4 overtime victory. If you focus only on the last 40 minutes, they had most aspects of their game chugging along. Tonight they head to America’s capital city to play the Washington Capitals (11-9-1), another highly-touted team that has struggled getting all their cylinders firing. It’s the third game of a six game road trip that has seen the Flames play really poorly (an 8-2 loss to Detroit) and fairly well (their win in Philadelphia).
The puck drops at 5 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and Sportsnet West.
Here are tonight’s projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Jagr
Versteeg – F.Hamilton – Brouwer (A)
Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone
Mike Smith starts once more. He gave up four goals against Philadelphia, but a lot of those goals were turnovers, tips and screens. He’s been good this season and if he sees it, he’ll probably stop it. But that also makes a pretty clear plan of attack for opposing coaches. He’s 10-6-0 with a 2.70 goals against average and .919 save percentage. He’s backed up by Eddie Lack. The healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski, Curtis Lazar and Matt Stajan, as Matthew Tkachuk has returned from his suspension for the shenanigans in Detroit. Freddie Hamilton plays for the first time since Oct. 21.
There are two stories around the Flames these days. The first is holy crap Johnny Gaudreau is good at hockey. He enters the game third in the entire NHL in scoring and riding a nine-game points streak – he’s got 17 points during that stretch. His entire line has been lights-out over the past nine games and it’s helped keep the Flames in most of those games.
The other story? Aside from Saturday’s three-goal outburst, the power play needs to be better. The penalty killers had a huge kill at the end of the Philadelphia game with the score tied and two minutes left in regulation, but they also gave up a first period goal and they, too, need to be better. If the special teams units can get their acts together, the Flames suddenly look like a scary-good team.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Stephenson – Backstrom (A) – Oshie
Ovechkin (C) – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly
Vrana – Eller – Wilson
Connolly – Beagle – Chiasson
Orpik (A) – Carlson
Orlov – Niskanen
Chorney – Bowey
Braden Holtby gets the start. He’s 11-4-0 with a 2.56 goals against average and .921 save percentage, and is backed up by Philipp Grubauer. The healthy scratches are Christian Djoos, Aaron Ness and Nathan Walker.
The Capitals are coming off a 3-1 win over Minnesota on Saturday, but they’ve been in a win-one, lose-one mode for much of this season. They’re searching for consistency.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) is on the injured reserve.
Washington: Andre Burakovsky (upper-body) and Tyler Graovac (upper-body) are on the injured reserve. Graovac is with the AHL’s Hershey Bears on a conditioning assignment.
When Last We Met
The Flames beat Washington in Calgary three weeks ago by a 2-1 score. It might’ve been the Flames’ best 60 minutes of hockey this season, in that they played a structured game, didn’t give up a ton and won in regulation off two goals from their top line.
Know Thy Enemy
Here are some fine peeps that make some nice Caps tweets:
Sum It Up
The Flames head to D.C. coming off a big comeback win and face a team they’ve already beaten this season. If they can build off Saturday’s triumph, they could finally start to get some momentum behind them this season.
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