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FGD 42: Starting the second half in Minnesota (6pm MT, SN West)

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.

The Flames

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.

The Wild

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.

Injury Report

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.

The Numbers

CGY MIN
Wins 21 22
Points 46 47
Adjusted Corsi 52.5% 46.7%
Power Play 17.6% 19.5%
Penalty Kill 78.8% 82.8%

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.

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.

Enter the Vegas Breakaway for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas and tickets to a Golden Knights game. Enter to win at atb.com/vegas

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    The Flames should have a new year’s resolution to win a game convincingly (on the score-sheet). I’m tired of the negative goal differential and the blown leads.

  • The Sultan

    I’m glad the Flames won but that was a brutally reffed game, again. From phantom calls, missed calls, to just plain being in the way and out of position, we may as well have robots programmed to do their job. And they’d probably do it a lot better.

  • SydScout

    Where are the comments about Johnny not having any passion? I recall loud voices saying he didn’t care for the team, the city etc. These past few games he’s been amazing on the ice and the bench. The kid is a complete legend, I love his passion. I hope he is forever a Flame. I guess those haters are all under the same rock at the Janko haters. Flames are on the march!

    • oilcanboyd

      Trolls! Don’t forget the trolls who said last season that the NHL has figured out Johnny. Of course Johnny was the victim of multiple slashes (up to 21) a game. Slashing now penalized but hauling him down is allowed.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I don’t understand why the organization hasn’t experimented with Tkachuk on RW. It would help solve an organization and current depth due to injury weaknesss (Frolik out, Versteeg out, Jagr out). Seems we have plenty of legit LW depth in the system to fill that side if needed.

    Johnny/Monny/Ferland
    Bennett/Backlund/Tkachuk
    Mangiapane/Janko/Hathaway
    Hrivik/Stajan/Lazar

    • Chucky

      Because Mr. tried and true GG does not experiment. He is so afraid of change that he selects Grossman, Glass and every other retread over untried talent. No one would ever say “Glen was eager to look at something new”. Does he even have electric light in his house?

      • supra steve

        And Grossmann and Glass played how many games? I’ll save you the trouble, it was 3 for Grossmann, 7 for Glass. Time to find some more pertinent examples of just how bad you feel this coach is.

        As for giving “new” players a chance, have you checked out the lineup lately?

        • Cheeky

          I just love it when fans just look through the “we’ve just won a couple, let’s plan the parade” glasses. GG is an idiot regardless of winning 3 in a row (none of which were completely convincing). He finally has young guys playing that are making their mark but still needs to dress Stajan and Brouwer (who is starting on line #2). Cameron is still allowed to run our PP into the ground and Smith still doesn’t get a rest. Pump your pom poms for GG and the Jack Adams but until this team plays a full game and stops blowing multi goal leads, we are still a fringe group who may through luck squeeze into a playoff spot….on that note, go boys!…

          • The Real Slim Brodie

            Did Cameron teach these boys about the one timer?…might help our pp drastically. I can’t remember the last one timer we tried.. .oh yeah Giordano blasted it for the game winner

    • BendingCorners

      I’d like to see them try that too, except Stajan (or Brouwer, I don’t care which) at LW and Hrivik at C.
      When Frolik is back if the top nine are rolling, sit both Stajan and Brouwer and put Frolik at 4L or swap him with Mangiapane.
      If Jagr is gone or on LTIR by then, we won’t need to demote anybody (thank you Arizona).

    • oilcanboyd

      Beano, Flames are on a winning streak. Mangiapane has provided much needed spark to our 4th line. I don’t like Brouwer as the replacement for Frolik, but if something goes horribly sideways tonight stay the course….OR switch Mangiapane with Brouwer on Backs line if the Flames start slow…

  • Chucky

    Surely these players can see that the Gulutzan theory of back off and play defense does not work. In the first two periods they played an aggressive form of hockey with stretch passes and defensemen jumping into the play, totally ignoring the Gulutzan system. News alert they won that part of the game 2-0. Third period they return to the Gulutzan garbage with “short , sharp passes” coming out of their own zone. OOPs lost that part of the game 0-2.
    Try ignoring the coach for three periods and then the other team does not get a point.
    Hrudy quotes Bruce Boudreau ” when they play their game they win”. Why in the world would they try to play the Gulutzan game when they win with the one that is a natural fit to the talent?

  • oilcanboyd

    Before the current 3 game W streak the Flames were going 2 Wins and 3 Losses for a month. If they turn that around to 3 Wins and 2 Losses for each 5 game segments over the next 40 games they will wind up with 94 points and if they win the last game, Game 41, of the second half they will have 96. That may be enough, or not. Easier said than done, but if they continue to play well on the road and keep improving at home…it is doable.

  • Alberta Ice

    The Flames have got their game on at just the right time. This 3 game win streak has not been a fluke. The lines are looking deep and playing well. Overall, the passing has been much crisper and deadly (evidenced by the passes to Dougie for the game winner against the Duckleheads). The physicality has increased (evidenced by Hathaway and Bennett standing up for Smith). The additions of Jankowski, Hathaway, Rittich, and now Mangiapane have been a great breath of fresh air and of youthful enthusiasm. These additions are helping Gaudreau, Brouwer, Tkachuk, and especially Bennett, get their game back to a new level. Jagr’s experience and wisdom has been a great help too and I am sorry that the age and injury factor has taken its toll on him to not to keep his career moving forward. Folks, we have an excellent number of draft picks and farm kids eager to make their mark. This is the Flames future; not trades. Andersson should be our next look at defense. (Kulak has looked solid the last few games. Forgot to mention him earlier.) I am really looking forward to what Mangiapane will add when he is put with some offensive players. He will score soon. Count on it. Now my bold prediction: 4 more wins on this road trip beginning tonight in Minnesota. (Disclaimer: If Bartkowski is put in the line up, then maybe not.) GFG.

  • everton fc

    Would have been nice (and smart) to have kept a point from the Wild… But the boys held on, and we have another two points.

    I remember Derek Wills saying the Flames can’t catch the Kings, last time we played them. We are now only 5 points back of the Kings, level in games played. GO FLAMES!!!

    • everton fc

      Very good. All-Star good, soon enough. What team wouldn’t want him??

      We are very lucky to have him, and need to sign him to fair term, when his next deal comes up.