Two teams with high expectations that are mired in the muck of the National Hockey League standings meet tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome to close out 2017! The Calgary Flames (18-16-4) bought big this summer but are out of the playoff picture right now. They host the Chicago Blackhawks (18-14-5), who had similarly high expectations – based upon recent Stanley Cup success – but are merely an also-ran in a very competitive Central Division right now. Can one of these teams turn it around before the clock strikes midnight and 2017 ends? Well, one of them will basically have to.
The puck drops shortly after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Last night’s lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Jagr
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Mangiapane – Stajan – Brouwer (A)
Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone
Mike Smith makes his 33rd start of the season. He’s 14-13-3 with a 2.56 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski, Freddie Hamilton and Curtis Lazar.
The Flames are coming off three fairly flat performances (separated by the Christmas break) and the hope likely is that they can snap out of their funk and get back to the type of hockey they’ve been playing for the better part of the last two months. Despite their recent clunkiness the Flames are just three points out of a playoff spot, but their survival depends on scoring some goals and winning some games.
Once again, keep an eye on the special teams. Their penalty kill has improved of late, but the power play remains, uh, uneven. (And by that I mean, “fairly bad.”)
Oh, and Mikael Backlund plays his 500th NHL game tonight. He’s just the 11th Flames draft pick to play that many games with the club and the 18th player to play 500 with the Flames at all.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Saad – Toews – Panik
Hartman – Schmaltz – Kane
Debrincat – Kampf – Hinostroza
Bouma – Wingels – Hayden
Keith – Oesterle
Murphy – Seabrook
Franson – Kempny
32-year-old NHL rookie Jeff Glass gets the start for Chicago after picking up his first win in his first start in Edmonton on Friday. He’s taken the (very) long road to make it to the NHL, and with Corey Crawford out for a bit he’ll be relied upon to get Chicago some points. He’s backed up by Anton Forsberg. The likely scratches are Gustav Forsling, Patrick Sharp and Jan Rutta.
Welcome back to Lance Bouma, bought out over the summer and technically paid by the Flames tonight to play against them – $3,600 heads Bouma’s way today of the Flames’ cap space. He’s part of a very odd Blackhawks bottom six group; the whole team has been hammered by injuries, but their depth guys are a weird mix of young, inexpensive and over-the-hill. Despite all this, the Blackhawks keep plugging along. They’re a borderline elite possession team and if not for some rough shooting percentages, they’d be further up in the standings. They’ll be a tough out tonight.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip) and Michael Frolik (jaw) are on the injured reserve.
Chicago: Michal Rozsival (upper-body), Marian Hossa (skin), Corey Crawford (upper-body) and Artem Anisimov (upper-body) are on the injured reserve.
When Last We Met
This is the first time these teams have met this season – the only other Western Conference team the Flames haven’t faced yet are the Vegas Golden Knights. In three meetings last season, the Flames won just once (in a shootout).
Know Thy Enemy
Here are some Chi-Town tweeters:
Sum It Up
The Flames desperately needs points (and momentum) as they try to pull themselves back into the Western playoff battle.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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