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FGD 47: Sabre rattling (7pm MT, SN West)

The Calgary Flames (25-16-5) were a bit sloppy and disjointed on Saturday afternoon as they returned from their bye week. They managed to salvage a point out of things, by way of another strong Mike Smith outing. The Flames host the Buffalo Sabres (11-26-9) this evening, a team that (all due respect) has spent much of the 2017-18 season looking sloppy and disjointed. Regardless of how rough the Sabres’ season has been thus far, they represent a crucial two points for the Flames in an extremely tight Western Conference playoff race.

The puck drops just after 7 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
Hrivik – Stajan – Lazar

Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone

Mike Smith makes his 40th start of the season for the Flames. He joins Toronto’s Freddie Andersen in the 40 start club. Smith is 20-13-4 with a 2.42 goals against average and .925 save percentage this season. David Rittich backs him up. All indications from yesterday’s full skate was that Marek Hrivik would rotate in for Andrew Mangiapane, while Matt Bartkowski remains the other healthy scratch.

Up until their seven game winning streak – which deservedly ended on Saturday – the Flames were a streaky team, alternating a couple wins with a couple losses. They’ve gone from being a playoff fringe team to being firmly in the playoff hunt by way of their hot streak. The secret now? Just don’t go cold. If the Flames can avoid lengthy losing streaks or a string of flat performances, they’re a playoff team. They played a poor game against the Jets but still managed to eke out a point but they’ll need to find their swagger and consistency if they want to rattle off another streak.

The Flames’ power play went 0-for-4 against Winnipeg. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but they need their big power play guns to generate goals with regularity if they want to avoid relying on Smith for all of their wins.

The Sabres

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Girgensons – Eichel – Okposo
Wilson – O’Reilly – Reinhart
Kane – Larsson – Pominville
Nolan – Rodrigues – Baptiste

Scandella – Ristolainen
Beaulieu – McCabe
Falk – Nelson

In a bit of a surprise, former Flames backup Chad Johnson starts for the Sabres. He’s 1-8-3 with a 3.86 goals against average and .878 save percentage. I’m not sure what the logic is starting him, besides the emotional aspect. He’s backed up by Robin Lehner. Based on reports from morning skate, Benoit Poiliot, Victor Antipin and Josh Gorges look like healthy scratches, while Jacob Josefson skated but didn’t participate in line rushes so it looks like his return from injury will have to wait for another day.

Buffalo’s longest winning streak this season is two games. They’ve rattled off four different sequences of four regulation losses this season. They’re not a good team. They’re having a bad year. They lost 7-1 to Dallas on Saturday in a game that prompted Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason to absolutely bury the players, coaching staff and ownership in a scathing column. The market is just dreaming of Rasmus Dahlin at this point.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip), Michael Frolik (jaw) and Jaromir Jagr (groin/knee) are on the injured reserve.

Buffalo: Zach Bogosian (lower-body) and Jacob Josefson (lower-body) are on the injured reserve.

When Last We Met

These clubs haven’t met since last season, when they split their season series with the home team always winning. They’ll play one more time in Buffalo in early March.

The Numbers

CGY BUF
Wins 25 11
Points 55 31
Adjusted Corsi 52.2% 46.0%
Power Play 17.9% 14.3%
Penalty Kill 80.1% 78.3%

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some Buffalo tweeters:

Sum It Up

Can the Flames get back into the win column and inch themselves closer to a playoff spot when they host the Eastern Conference’s worst team? Coming off a quite poor outing against the Jets, the short answer is “Well, you’d certainly hope so…”

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

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    • Chiz

      Did Brouwer lose that draw that lead to the goal? My goodness. I know the boys have just finished off a 7 game win streak, and have points in 9 straight, but crap like this to me is a straight up fireable offence for that coaching staff. you can’t put someone on the ice to take a faceoff over Brouwer?

  • MontanaMan

    Sabres are a brutal squad but the Flames played to their level. Game on Wednesday against the Kings and back to back with the Oilers. Could be a tough week.

    • Mickey O

      They will beat the Kings, maybe the best period of hockey they have played all year when they scored 4 against them in the second. It is look in the mirror time and ramp up the intensity to eleven.

  • Skeittari78

    Yeah, put Brouwer in to take the defensive faceoff. Great job, GG. What an utterly dismal effort by the team, too. They should all go home by foot tonight.

  • cgyokgn

    I hope they are embarrassed… letting the worst team in the league come into their barn and beat them… only 5 seconds left on the penalty. So are they going to follow their 7 wins with 7 losses?

  • Alberta Ice

    I hate long breaks. We’ve gone from 4th gear back down to 1st gear. Oh, yeah, let’s take more stupid penalties late in the game to get more penalty kill practice especially since the defense can’t get the puck out of their own zone. We just got Buffaloed. Hey, only two more games until the next long break. Yeck.

  • Hockey4life

    Brouwer to take the face off? Are you effing kidding me? You’ve got Bennett, Monahan, and Jankowski on the bench and you go with a winger? Hell…even Stajan would have been a better choice. Maybe someone should throw their stick at the coach. What an embarrassing loss.

    • Chucky

      In all of my time watching sports that ranks as the worst coaching decision of the past 60 years. There really should be questions phased in the form of “why did you throw that game?”.
      Is Gulatzan into a bookie for a lot or something?

    • I should be GM

      Does Gully need glasses???

      Why can’t he see that Brouwer is terrible? A year and a half of the Brouwer play and now he is our #1 centre at such a critical time? I’m not even a coach and I can see those are terrible moves. Is the coach trying to get fired?

  • Alberta Ice

    This team is great at playing other teams at their own level. Sad that we’ve left Smith out to dry the last two games. We can thank him for the two loser points. On the other hand, our two goal tenders from last year (Elliot and Johnson) got their revenge on this organization for letting them go. Probably one other forgotten motivating factor for why we got beat once by them. And, hey, they did get us last year into the playoffs. “And that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.”

  • Mickey O

    I would love to hear Gulutzan’s explanation for why Brouwer was out there for that last face-off.
    But will a reporter have the guts to ask the rather obvious question?

    • Chucky

      Not just Brouwer, GIo and Stone had a 1 minute 30 second shift as well. Probably good for them it ended then a 5 minute shift is a long time to be on the ice. Sometimes when I watched Peewee hockey you would see a coach leave one player out for that long, never saw three on the ice for a shift like that when there was a chance to change them.
      How do you think the players feel about playing for this clown?

  • Alberta Ice

    Actually, we now have the Kings, Oilers, and Golden Knights right where we want them. They think we will be an easy two points. Talk about suckering them up to be overconfident, eh! (Just like we suckered the Oilers in the first game of the year to think they would walk away with the Pacific Division. Oh what a clever franchise we are.)

  • Off the wall

    My computer froze right after the last whistle when Stone tipped the shot out.

    It came back after I saw the Sabres celebration. F’ing Laptop

    We really need a home coach, who knows how to utilize home advantage.

    I’m sick of us playing for a tie.
    I can hardly wait to see post game interview of GG.. dumbo

  • seamax

    I don’t watch enough of the other teams to know for certain that Gully is the worst head coach in the league, but if there is anyone less competent out there, boy do those fans have my sympathy.

    • Chucky

      When you get to that level it is hard to distinguish levels of competence, but I must compliment you on great empathy at a time when most of us are mired in outright rage.

  • seamax

    If the reaction to missing the playoffs is firing the entire coaching staff and shipping out Brodie and Hamonic, I’d much rather miss the playoffs entirely. than be eliminated in the first round. This team would somehow find a way to lose a best of seven in three games anyway.