The Calgary Flames (22-16-4) are riding high right now, as they’re in the midst of a four game winning streak that’s seen them play some pretty good hockey. They’ll need to be as good as they’ve been all year tonight when they head down to Florida for the first game of a back to back stretch against the Tampa Bay Lightning (31-9-3). The Lightning just happen to be the top team in the NHL right now.
The puck drops just after 5:30 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
Don’t expect many (or any) changes from a Flames crew that’s won four straight.
Mike Smith starts for the 37th time this season. He’s 18-13-3 with a 2.55 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik. Jaromir Jagr remains day-to-day with injury and/or career limbo.
Good news and bad news regarding Calgary’s special teams (or “specialty teams,” as Glen Gulutzan refers to them). Their penalty kill has allowed just one goal over their last five games and has had some very important late-game kills in close games over the last stretch. That’s good! That’s what you want from your penalty kill. But their power play has been the opposite: they haven’t gotten big goals with the extra man when they’ve needed them. Heck, they’ve scored two power play goals (both in the same game) over the last five games. They need more.
Since beating Vancouver 6-1 on Dec. 17, the Flames have played in eight straight one-goal games – they’re 5-2-1 in that stretch.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Kunitz – Stamkos – Kucherov
Palat – Point – Johnson
Killorn – Namestnikov – Gourde
Brown – Paquette – Callahan
Stralman – Hedman
Sergachev – Dorchin
Coburn – Sustr
Andrei Vasilevskiy starts for the Lightning. He’s 27-6-2 with a 2.10 goals against average and a .933 save percentage in 36 appearances. He’s backed up by Louie Domingue. Their healthy extras are Slater Koekkoek, Dan Girardi and Cory Conacher.
The Lightning are the best team in the NHL. Swapping out Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev really strengthened their blueline and Vasilevskily is one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Flat-out: the Flames will need to be on the game tonight if they want to escape Tampa with some points.
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.
Tampa Bay: Peter Budaj (leg) is on the injured reserve.
When Last We Met
This is the first of two meetings between Calgary and Tampa Bay this season. They split their two meetings last season, with the road team winning each time.
Know Thy Enemy
Here’s a brief look at Tampa Bay Lightning Twitter:
Sum It Up
The Flames try to extend their winning streak against the NHL’s best team! It’ll be a good measuring stick game for them: there’s really no point of eking into the playoffs unless you can actually beat really good teams.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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