Through 40 games, the Calgary Flames (20-16-4) have the same number of points (44) as they did a year ago. That’s both good – they’re consistent – and frustrating – they expended a ton of assets over the summer to upgrade the team. Regardless of your level of amusement or agony regarding the Flames, they’ll likely need 51 points over the final 42 dates of the season to qualify for the playoffs. They also will need to leapfrog four teams between them and the playoffs: Minnesota, Colorado, Chicago and the Anaheim Ducks (19-14-9), who they host tonight at the Saddledome.
The time for win-one, lose-one inconsistency is over. The first half closes out tonight. The push to the playoffs begins. The puck drops shortly after 8 p.m. MT on the CBC (and Sportsnet) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Brouwer (A)
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Mangiapane – Stajan – Lazar
Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone
Mike Smith starts for the 35th time this season. He’s 16-13-3 with a 2.58 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. No changes for the lines and pairings from Thursday’s game. The healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik. Jaromir Jagr remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
So, this happened yesterday…
Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan went OFF at practice. Throwing sticks and dropping F-bombs everywhere ? pic.twitter.com/d5TqrwcPBX
— Tim and Sid (@timandsid) January 5, 2018
Yes, they’ve won two (expletive) games. They seem to finally be getting back to good efforts; the Los Angeles game was arguably their best game of the season, and a return to the style of play they showed for much of November and December. It’s the style of game they need to play consistently if they have a hope of being a playoff team. While you can disagree with the way that Gulutzan sent the message – and be a little impressed with the distance he got out of that stick-throw – you can’t disagree with the message itself: they need to be good all the time, because they have precious little wiggle room from here on out.
The Flames scored zero power play goals against the Kings, leaving their even strength scoring to carry the mail: the approach worked, with three of four forward lines generating offense. That probably won’t be the case all the time, so the power play has to continue to improve.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Vermette – Getzlaf – Rakell
Cogliano – Kesler – Silfverberg
Ritchie – Henrique – Perry
Wagner – Grant – Shaw
Lindholm – Manson
Fowler – Bieksa
Beauchemin – Montour
John Gibson starts for the Ducks. He’s 13-12-5 with a 2.63 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. He’s backed up by Ryan Miller. The healthy scratches are likely Korbinian Holzer and Kevin Roy. Ondrej Kase looks to be out with an illness, while Corey Perry is expected to return tonight from an injury. (There’s an open roster spot for him, so they don’t need to make any moves to activate him from the IR.)
This is going to shock you, but the Ducks are still hampered by injuries. But they’ve been muddling along rather well, keeping their heads more or less above water despite all of that. The Ducks are well-coached and every game they’ve played with the Flames this season – and heck, in last year’s playoffs – has been very close. The gap between these clubs has definitely closed, there may not even be one anymore, but Anaheim remains an extremely tough out.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip) and Michael Frolik (jaw) are on the injured reserve. Jaromir Jagr (lower-body) is day-to-day and remains on the active roster.
Anaheim: Mike Liambas (lower-body), Patrick Eaves (Guillain-Barre syndrome) and Corey Perry (lower-body) are on the injured reserve, though Perry should return tonight. Ondrej Kase (illness) missed last game.
When Last We Met
This is the third of four games between Calgary and Anaheim this season. They’ve played twice in Anaheim and split the two games: Calgary won 2-0 and Anaheim won 2-1. They’ll play again in late March, when the playoff picture will be a lot clearer.
Know Thy Enemy
These fine So-Cal peeps will presumably be tweeting about the Anaheim hockey club:
Sum It Up
The Flames have won two games. If they win one more, it’s called a winning streak. It has happened before.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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