The second half of the 2017-18 season begins tonight for the Calgary Flames (21-16-4) as they kick off a four-game road trip that takes them to three states. Their sojourn begins at Xcel Energy Center as they visit the Minnesota Wild (22-17-3), who are one of many teams in the clump vying for the final two Western Conference playoff spots. Another team in that clump? The Flames. This is the first of roughly 41 remaining regular season games that will have crucial playoff implications for the local sports team.
The puck drops shortly after 6 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West 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 36th time this season. He’s 17-13-3 with a 2.56 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. After three wins in a row, the Flames are making no lineup changes. The healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik. Jaromir Jagr remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury and/or ennui regarding his situation with the Flames – per Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson, Jagr didn’t travel with the team on the trip.
This may shock you, but here are two fast facts:
- The Flames are on a three game winning streak. (Granted, all three games had a one-goal margin of victory, but as The Fast and the Furious taught us, winning’s winning.)
- The Flames enter action tonight just a single point out of the last wildcard playoff spot in the West.
Despite all their flaws, frustrations and foibles, the Flames are still very much in the thick of things. They are part of a pack of teams – which also includes the likes of Minnesota, San Jose, Anaheim, Dallas, Chicago and Colorado – fighting for the two wildcard spots and the final Pacific Division spot. The Flames don’t need to be amazing in the second half but, as the saying goes, they have to be faster than the bear. If they’re the third-best team in the second half of their pack, there’s playoff hockey in Southern Alberta.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Zucker – Staal – Ennis
Niederreiter – Koivu – Granlund
Eriksson Ek – Coyle – Parise
Foligno – Cullen – Winnik
Suter – Spurgeon
Brodin – Dumba
Olofsson – Prosser
Alex Stalock starts for Minnesota. He’s 7-8-1 with a 2.70 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in 18 appearances. He’s backed up by Devan Dubnyk, who presumably starts tomorrow in the second half of the Wild’s back-to-back tomorrow in Chicago. Mike Reilly and Chris Stewart are their healthy scratches. Per Mike Russo of The Athletic, Mikko Koivu has the flu and is questionable, in which case Stewart slots in and lines get shuffled quite a bit. (Eriksson Ek or Winnik likely end up shuffled over to center if Koivu doesn’t play.)
The Wild are a tough team to figure out. They’ve got a veteran coach and they’re not short on talent, but they’ve been a win-one, lose-one team over the last while and just can’t seem to get a ton of traction this season. They’re hoping, like many teams, for more consistency in the second half of this season.
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.
Minnesota: The Wild have no injuries.
When Last We Met
This is the third of three meetings between these teams this season. Minnesota’s taken the first two: 4-2 in Calgary on Oct. 21 and 2-1 (in a shootout) in Minnesota on Dec. 12.
Know Thy Enemy
Here are some Twitter accounts that are related to the Wild:
Sum It Up
The Flames are on a winning streak, and they’re kicking off a four-game road trip. If they have aspirations of being a playoff team, it would behoove them to keep the streak rolling along.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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