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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…”

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  • Hockeyfan

    Buffalo on the barbi!!!!! Will we seeing Kane on the Flames by March? TJ, Klimchuk for Kane and 1st pick. Cmon tree, do it!!! Flames 6, Buffalo 2. I smell a hatty by Janko.

      • freethe flames

        You are right Stajan has played better in large part because he has been playing with kids who have some speed. I also think tonight would have been a good night to play Hrivik with Mangiapane and Lazar not because Stajan has played poorly but because we need to see more of the kids.

        • Stajanforadirtyboot

          You Stajan supporters do realize he has contributed a total of 2 points this year. That’s 2. The same amount as Smith. Smith is a goalie. Stajan is tied for points with a goalie. This is not better. This is less points then Krzysztof Oliwa when he was a flame. Oh that’s right….He’s a nice guy.

    • BAN36FROMPP

      Good GG and his questionable player usage and lineup. Enough of Stajan already. Sure he is playing better but he still does not belong in the NHL. Rittich should be playing tonight as well. GG does not get it and if we make the playoffs we will be toast in the first round for him playing guys like Stajan and Brouwer. I do not mind Brouwer on the 4th line just not with A slow and useless plug like Stajan.

    • The Fall

      Mangiapane is a kid; he hasn’t hit the scoresheet yet. Likely, its just to watch for a couple games. He will be penciled into next years starting lineup.

  • buts

    My how a goalie can stand on his head and many think we didn’t play poorly on Saturday….if it wasn’t for Smith it would have been a regulation loss. This is a game for Rittich but why would we assume a coach that can’t use players knows how to use goalies and yes it’s a big game, but they all are big games now with the standings so tight. Starting Rittich would I think get the players attention and focus up a notch and make them realize that they can’t rely on Smith to bail them out game in and game out…. Beware of the home town goalie coming back to play his former team…..Did Daniel Prybil have major surgery on his knee? Why has he been injured so long?

  • pennerm

    The Flames are”coming off quite a poor showing against the Jets”?? Has the bar really moved that high? They lost 2-1 in a shootout – and scored first and had a goal disallowed. Against a very good team. Yes, the play was “sloppy and disjointed” (as many afternoon games can be, especially coming off a break), but it was so for both sides. And yes, Mike Smith played the goalie position well and did what goalies are paid to do – stop pucks – but the team did not hang him out to dry. I’m a big fan, Mr. Pike, but I wonder if expectations are little skewed. It’s ok to enjoy the game…

      • Intercourse the Penguins

        @Doc: every game should be a 3 point game. In the regular season that is. 3 for a regulation win and 2 for an OT or SO win and the loser point to even it out. The TV networks are not going to go for unlimited OT.

        • The Doctor

          @intercourse: I realize unlimited regular season OT is a non-starter. Personally I’d like the 3-2-1 point system, but if the game (ot) ends in a tie you each get one point. The added points would be plenty of incentive for teams not to just dog it for the one point.

    • Danomitee

      Completely agree. I thought that was a good game from both sides. Thing is, Winnipeg is really really good! You have to give them some credit, and in all honesty a shootout is as close to a tie as you can get.

    • WillyWonka

      Exactly… it wasn’t THAT poor of a showing and both teams had some slop in their play. I saw lots of good thickening the game from flames players. They got beat by a very solid team in a shootout. And the disssalowed goal should have been a goal and possibly the win.

  • MontanaMan

    Flames playing poorly but need to play one period of hockey for the win. Hathaway had better get his act together or Tre will be breaking his promise to keep him up for the year.

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • JMK

    Wasn’t there a brief time period where posters on here were pining over not selecting Girgensons with Calgary’s pick that year, and trading it for Jankowski and Sieloff’s picks? He’s dropped off a bit it seems.

      • JusAFlamer

        why you think it only after every loss?

        many want GG gone period. prior to 2018 he never showed emotion, never seemed to be “in-the-game” was stubborn by the “numbers-say-should-work” refused or could not adapt, could not line match etc. I believe he only started last couple weeks because he had management meeting and is trying to save job now

        was a good assistant coach, could talk the talk but could not handle having the reigns and making decisions without 1/2 season of stats to force him to adapt. Was not just after loss, was after window closed to see what he could actually do (after first half season).

    • everton fc

      I was one of them. Mea culpa!

      The fact Girgensons will never amount to much more than he already is, and is also the Sabres 1st line/LW… Shows how dismal this team truly is.

      This can’t be lost points. We must win BIG.

    • JMK

      Can’t get them all right. I see a former Flames draft pick, John Ramage, was just traded for ‘Future Considerations’, what exactly are ‘Future Considerations’?

  • JusAFlamer

    at least on the road GG does not get to attempt his version of line matching.
    seriously why is he so determined to go first vs first with our supposed “awesome” shutdown line not getting that duty.
    they are playing ok, but even so the line matching and player usage once again has me scratching my head

    • Chucky

      That stupid nit wit had Brouwer out there for 1:24 with two opportunities to change him. DO the Flames really not have a forward who could win a faceoff other than Brouwer.
      No one can defend Gulutzan’s refusal to use the little bit of a brain he has and realize that maybe his favourite penatly killer was too tired.

  • Lucky 13

    Is Buffalo really that bad? Yes. The Sabres own the league’s worst record at 11-26-9. They are second to last in the NHL in PP%. Their goal differential on the season is a league worst -59
    U-G-L-Y

    This should be a guaranteed 2 points.

    • Alberta Ice

      Should be guaranteed unless the Flames come in overconfident. Better attitude is to play as though your playoff life depends on this win. Every game is going to be a dogfight from here on in. GFG

      • Cfan in Van

        The Flames can be their own worst enemies tonight, unless they really focus and clamp down. It seems like a lot of their worst performances come when “they should have this one in the bag”.

        Focus is key tonight. GFG!