Way, way back on New Year’s Eve, the Calgary Flames (25-18-8) started a pretty nice win streak with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks (24-20-7). Now the Flames are riding a six game losing skid and hope to get back to their winning ways tonight as the Blackhawks return to the Scotiabank Saddledome. It’s the first game of a home and home series that concludes on Tuesday night in Chicago. Facing another Western Conference foe, the Flames can make their playoff lives easier with a regulation win and make them much, much tougher with a regulation loss.
The puck drops just after 8 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Mangiapane – Bennett – Brouwer (A)
Lazar – Stajan – Hathaway
Giordano (C) – Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Bartkowski – Stone
Mike Smith starts for the 44th time this season. He’s 20-15-6 with a 2.50 goals against average and .922 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The healthy scratches tonight are Brett Kulak, Ryan Lomberg and Mark Jankowski. Sam Bennett slides in to play center on the third line, playing that position for just the second time since Jankowski was recalled on Oct. 23.
The Flames made a tweak to the first power play unit in yesterday’s practice that might creep into tonight’s game: two defensemen. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk are joined by Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. Reports from morning skate suggest that things will stay fairly status quo to start, though, with the Brouwer Play top unit (with four forwards and Giordano) and the two defender second unit.
Despite some quiet play over the last bit, Gaudreau is seventh in the league in scoring and has more points than John Tavares or Sidney Crosby. He’ll need to be good if the Flames hope to find their way into the post-season.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Debrincat – Toews – Duclair
Anisimov – Schmaltz – Kane
Bouma – Wingels – Saad
Hinostroza – Kampf – Jurco
Keith – Oesterle
Gustafsson – Seabrook
Kempny – Murphy
Jeff Glass gets the start for Chicago. He’s 3-3-2 with a 3.15 goals against average and .910 save percentage. Backed up by Anton Forsberg. Scratches are Jan Rutta, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Sharp.
The Blackhawks are coming off a 4-2 loss in Vancouver on Thursday. They’re almost as streaky as the Flames lately. Since the calendar flipped over to 2018, they’re 6-6-1 and have strung together clumps of wins and losses. They’re teetering on being fully out of it, and two regulation losses to the Flames would put them seven points back. Two regulation wins, though, would see them leapfrog the Flames. These next two games are huge for both clubs.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) and Kris Versteeg (hip) are on the injured reserve.
Chicago: Michal Rozsival (upper-body), Marian Hossa (allergic to equipment) and Corey Crawford (upper-body) are on the injured reserve.
When Last We Met
This is game two of three between these teams this season. Calgary beat Chicago on New Year’s Eve in overtime, and they finish off the season series on Tuesday night in Chicago.
Know Thy Enemy
Here are some Chi-Town tweeters:
Sum It Up
The Flames can throw Chicago a lifeline or an anvil over the next two games. We’ll find out a ton about both teams between now and Tuesday night.
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