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FGD 23: Closing out the trip in Denver (8pm MT, CBC)

The Calgary Flames (12-9-1) have alternated between really long homestands and really long road trips so far this season. They close out their longest road trip of the season tonight against the Colorado Avalanche (11-8-2). The Flames have been both very good and very bad on this road trip, often in the same games. They’re 2-2-1 on their trip and can nudge themselves over the .500 mark on this trip with a victory. They’re playing their second game in as many nights, against a team playing their second game in as many nights, and it’s likely that their goalie will be making his first NHL start.

The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and CBC.

The Flames

Last night’s lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Jagr
Versteeg – Lazar – Brouwer (A)

Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone

After Mike Smith saw 40 shots and gave up five goals in Dallas, presumably David Rittich makes his first career NHL start tonight. The healthy scratches last night were Matt Bartkowski, Matt Stajan and Freddie Hamilton. They’re not skating today, so we’ll update with whatever information pops out of the pre-game media availability this afternoon.

Update: Rittich is confirmed as tonight’s starter. Since Miikka Kiprusoff retired, Rittich is the 12th different goaltender to start for the Flames.

Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan have been very good this season. Gaudreau enters the day tied for second in the league in scoring (two points behind Steven Stamkos) and Monahan is 13th. Gaudreau has 19 more points than anybody on the Flames not named Monahan. The Flames aren’t a one line team, but they only have one line that looks consistently dangerous.

Their penalty kill isn’t good statistically as of yet, but they’ve killed off every penalty they’ve faced over the past three games – including a five-on-three last night in Dallas. It’s not amazing, but it’s a start.

The Avalanche

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Landeskog (C) – MacKinnon (A) – Rantanen
Wilson – Kerfoot – Compher
Nieto – Soderberg – Comeau
Andrighetto – Toninato – Yakupov

Girard – Johnson (A)
Zadorov – Barberio
Barrie – Mironov

The Avalanche played last night, losing 3-2 to Minnesota in a shootout. Jonathan Bernier faced 27 shots. It’s unclear if Andrew Hammond, who was called up to be Bernier’s back-up, or Semyon Varlamov, who missed yesterday’s game due to an illness, will start. Or they might go back to Bernier. Chris Bigras and Gabriel Bourque were healthy scratches last night, so presumably one (or both) slot back in.

Update: Per the Avalanche, Bernier starts once again. He’s 4-4-1 with a 2.98 goals against average and .901 save percentage. No word on who dresses as his backup.

I’ll be honest, Colorado’s roster is so weird. It’s a mix of players I wasn’t sure were still playing in the NHL (hi, Blake Comeau and Nail Yakupov!), players I wasn’t sure were in the NHL yet (hey, Sam Girard and Alex Kerfoot!) and players I could scarcely remember had been acquired by Colorado. But after the team was flat-out terrible last season, they seem to be figuring things out and they have some confidence now for the first time in awhile. There are no expectations in Colorado right now, and that makes the Avalanche an incredibly dangerous hockey team.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) is on the injured reserve.

Colorado: Anton Lindholm (jaw), Vladislav Kamenov (arm) and Patrik Nemeth (undisclosed) are on the injured reserve. Semyon Varlamov didn’t dress yesterday due to an illness.

When Last We Met

The Flames swept their three games against Colorado last season. They won 6-3, 4-1 and 4-2, so none of the games were all that close.

The Numbers

CGY COL
Wins 12 11
Points 25 24
Adjusted Corsi 51.6% 47.2%
Power Play 22.1% 18.2%
Penalty Kill 74.0% 76.3%

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some Avalanche-related accounts!

Sum It Up

The Flames finish off their lengthy road trip and are in a position to nudge themselves over .500 on their trip with a win. Considering how bad they’ve been at times – the trip began with an 8-2 butt-kicking from Detroit – that’s a win in and of itself.

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