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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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