History will be made tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome, as the Calgary Flames (25-16-8) meet the Vegas Golden Knights (32-12-4) for the very first time. The Golden Knights have been the talk of the National Hockey League this season, as this island of misfit toys leads the Pacific Division so far and is well-positioned to make the playoffs. The Flames are figuring out ways to get points on a consistent basis, but really need to start stringing together some wins to cement themselves in the standings.
The puck drops just after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Brouwer (A)
Lazar – Stajan – Hathaway
Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone
Mike Smith, fresh from the All-Star Game, starts for the Flames. He’s 20-3-6 with a 2.39 goals against average and .926 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The scratches are Andrew Mangiapane, Matt Bartkowski and Ryan Lomberg. Michael Frolik returns after taking a slapper in the face from Brent Burns a month ago.
The Flames have points in 11 games in a row and they’re 7-1-5 since Christmas. That’s good, as they’ve figured out a way to get points. That said, they’ve continually found ways to get just one point (rather than two) on several occasions. They’ve played consistently inconsistent hockey over the past few weeks, but if they can figure out how to put together a full 60 minutes they could be a dangerous team.
The key to victory tonight? Goals. Aside from a game or two where he’s been a bit leaky, Smith has been superb this season. He just needs some run support, something he hasn’t gotten with regularity lately.
The Golden Knights
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Smith – Karlsson – Marchessault
Perron – Haula – Neal
Leipsic – Eakin – Tuch
Lindberg – Bellemare – Carrier
Engelland – Theodore
Garrison – Schmidt
Miller – Hunt
Marc-Andre Fleury, also fresh off the All-Star Game, starts for Vegas. He’s 12-4-2 with a 1.77 goals against average and .942 save percentage. He’s backed up by Malcolm Subban. Their extra healthy body is Ryan Carpenter, while Brayden McNabb missed last game with an undisclosed injury but remains on the active roster. He’s with the team but didn’t practice yesterday.
Remember when Vegas got a team? Everyone chuckled and hoped the team wouldn’t suck for too long, especially with the Raiders moving there in 2020 (or 2021, stadium-depending). At the draft, I thought their jerseys looked slick but figured they’d be Vancouver or Arizona in terms of badness. So it’s both surprising and really, really impressive to see them tops in the Pacific, tops in the West, and 9-3-2 since Christmas.
The key to beating Vegas? Shut down that top line. Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault are refugees from the Florida Panthers’ abandonment of their old GM and his projects, while “Wild Bill” Karlsson was sent to Vegas by Columbus so they’d be able to keep some other players. He has 27 goals right now. Whoops. The reunited 3M Line will have their shutdown hands full.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) and Kris Versteeg (hip) are on the injured reserve.
Vegas: David Clarkson (back), Mikhail Grabovski (upper-body), Jon Merrill (undisclosed), Clayton Stoner (undisclosed), Luca Sbisa (hand) and Tomas Nosek (upper-body) are on the injured reserve.
When Last We Met
This is the first time these clubs have ever played. The Flames are riding a three-game losing streak in the most specific game scenario ever: facing expansion teams for the first time. They lost to Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota in their first meetings – the most recent of those games was 17 years ago and nobody from that year’s team are still involved in the league.
Know Thy Enemy
These folks tweet about the newest NHL team:
Sum It Up
The Flames have points in 11 in a row, but have also lost fought straight. They’re hoping to get out of their losing skid when they face off against the NHL’s newest, hottest club.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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