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FGD 56: Travis Hamonic’s homecoming (5pm MT, SN West)

After a bit of a letdown game against the New York Rangers on Friday night, the Calgary Flames (28-19-8) are back at it with an eye towards redemption in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders (27-23-6). The Flames are coming off a game on Friday where they coughed up a third period lead, while the Islanders made a miraculous comeback in their game against Detroit. It’s Travis Hamonic’s first game back at Barclays Center since his draft day trade to the Flames.

The game starts just after 5 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 (A) – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Lomberg – Stajan – Lazar

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

Mike Smith starts for the 47th time this season. He’s 22-16-6 with a 2.54 goals against average and .921 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The expected healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik.

The Flames’ penalty kill has allowed a goal in each of the last six games. The Flames’ power play has out-scored the opposition’s in zero of the past six games – they were even in their 7-4 loss against Tampa Bay, but have otherwise lost the special teams battle. Both groups need to be better.

Johnny Gaudreau enters the evening tied for second in the National Hockey League in scoring with 65 points. Gaudreau’s brilliance has been overshadowed somewhat by Smith’s heroics in net and the team’s overall inconsistency, but the smallest person on the Flames has easily been their biggest offensive weapon.

The Islanders

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Lee – Tavares – Bailey
Beauvillier – Barzal – Eberle
Ladd – Nelson – Clutterbuck
Johnston – Cizikas – Chimera

Leddy – Boychuk
Hickey – Pulock
Pelech – Aho

Jaroslav Halak starts for the Islanders. He’s 17-16-4 with a 3.23 goals against average and .908 save percentage. He’s backed up by Thomas Greiss. The expected scratches are Dennis Seidenberg, Alan Quine and Tanner Fritz. Remember, the Islanders’ Sebastian Aho is a 21-year-old defenseman from Sweden, while the other Sebastian Aho plays for Carolina, is from Finland and plays right wing.

The Isles had four power play goals during a five minute power play that got them back into their game on Friday, ultimately leading to an overtime win. Their power play is sharp, but it has to be to keep them in games. The Islanders have statistically the worst goaltending in the league, and the only team with worse penalty killing is the Edmonton Oilers. If the Flames are ever gonna jump-start their power play, tonight’s a golden opportunity.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) and Kris Versteeg (hip) are on the injured reserve. Troy Brouwer (facial fracture) is hurt but on the active roster.

NY Islanders: Nikolay Kulemin (upper-body), Shane Prince (undisclosed) and Calvin de Haan (upper-body) are on the injured reserve.

When Last We Met

These teams haven’t played each other yet this season. They split the two meetings last season, with the home team winning each game. They’ll meet again on Mar. 11 in Calgary.

With the Belmont Park arena deal solidifying, this could be one of the last games the Flames play in Brooklyn. Good riddance, as the Flames have yet to win a game at Barclays Center.

The Numbers

CGY NYI
Wins 28 27
Points 64 60
Adjusted Corsi 52.3% 47.2%
Power Play 16.8% 22.0%
Penalty Kill 79.0% 73.6%

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some nice folks that discuss the Isles:

Sum It Up

It’s the fourth game of a six game road trip, and a chance for the Flames to make up for a crappy effort against the Rangers.

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.

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  • aye

    If Chucky was a bit more selfish and went for the hat-trick instead of giving it to Frolik who missed the open net, the injury to Smith doesn’t happen. What a chain of events. Yikes, bad time of the year to run into injury problems.

    • Alberta Ice

      Yep, if Frolik makes the goal, the injury to Smith doesn’t happen. Just love Matty’s play. Talk about the one consistent Flame player. Not bad for 20 years of age. And Hamonic was awesome. Glad he got that cheer from the Islander fans. Great promo on his charity work during the periods on Sportsnet.

  • freethe flames

    I caught exactly 3 seconds of tonight’s game and what do I see Smith gets injured. Well we now get to see what young Mr Rittich is really about. We will get to see what this team is made of and whether BT can help to fill the hole.

  • Mickey O

    Tkachuk has the game of his life in the NHL.
    The powerplay scored, and looked better.
    Bennett (outside of the penalty) played well, so did Janko.
    Great comeback win, there was no playing for the tie there.

    …and yet all that will mostly be forgotten with the Smith injury. ‘Tis a cruel game.

      • Mickey O

        Tkachuk’s after game interview against the Rangers was something also. He said all the “right” things in sort of a toned down way, but you know he was screaming inside from the lack of effort to start the game. He put the team on his back in this one.

        Thank you CLB, EDM and VAN for letting this kid slip to Number 6. Much appreciated.

        • Alberta Ice

          More than appreciated. Still can’t believe we got him from that draft year. Just plain solid, consistent, smart, and dangerous on the ice. And he has learned from his mistakes and isn’t taking dumb penalties any more (but certainly drawing them).

          • Mickey O

            Was really hoping the Flames would get him also. Columbus taking Dubois was the key. Then Edmonton got all giddy and took Poolparty, and you just knew Vancouver was going with a defenseman.

            Twenty games in last season, I’m watching Byng and thinking he’s like a 5 year vet out there. He gets put on Backlund’s line, plays the toughest minutes on the team, and shines. Now he’s actually getting decent powerplay time.

            He’s already a master of protecting the puck by sticking his arse out Jagr style; and his hand-eye and IQ is amazing. He hates to lose, and gives you his all. Apart from all that, he’s been a complete bust for a 20 year old.

  • RKD

    Now with Chucky scoring his 19th and 20th the Flames forward group has 3 20 goal scorers in Monahan, Ferland and Tkachuk but soon to be 4 with Gaudreau closing in.

  • RKD

    I hope Smith is not out long term, it’s not Rittich I’m afraid of I have full confidence in him it is who’s behind him that worries me more. If Smith is out for any length of time then BT maybe looking for a veteran backup in addition to a forward.

  • Alberta Ice

    The Flames looked solid that 3rd period. Excellent on defense; excellent on offensive pressure. They play like that consistently for 60 minutes, they can beat anybody. Two big road game tests coming up in Boston and Nashville. GFG. And I hope the Smith injury isn’t as bad as it looked.

  • Mickey O

    Rittich has played many games in Czech Division 1 and 2 hockey. He played 31 games in Stockton last year. He hasn’t put a skate wrong so far in the NHL. He has the physical tools, and just as importantly the mental makeup, to carry the mail for a while.

    This isn’t a career back-up, he’s a potential starter and he exudes confidence. “I’m not nervous guy.” Time to shine Mr. Rittich with two very tough games against Boston and Nashville upcoming. Go get ’em!

    • Off the wall

      You called this one Mickey.
      Bad decision by GG to play Smith.
      I know his injury was freakish, but you also could tell Smith wasn’t himself.

      FN can disagree all they want. This is where you look at our coaching and question the work load GG has put on Smith. Unsatisfactory, for the guy who’s supposed to play 60 games a season. Already at 47 out of 56 or 84% of the current season.

      Now we’re in a place where GG is forced to play Rittich, whether it was in his plan or not.

      Btw, I have all the confidence in Rittich. However could we have avoided this situation?

      We know the answer to this..

      • Mickey O

        You never know how the individual game will turn out, but it looked like such an obvious spot to start Rittich. Smith is so competitive that he’d play 81 games, and take the last one off if the coaching staff let him.

        I agree with you that he hasn’t looked fantastic in the last few games. He said himself that the Tampa loss was on him, he let in 3 bad goals that game. It is the coaching staff’s job to recognize when someone needs a break, and to have the whole season in mind.

      • cberg

        Agree wholeheartedly, but I’ll take the positive view and say the team has to come together and play better with Rittich carrying the mail. This also is going to give Smith a good rest leading up to the playoffs. Could be a blessing in disguise.

        Hey, the Vegas Knights had to play 5 goalies so far, and they are top of the league! And look at the Penguins last two Cups… they needed both strong goalies…

  • Hockeyfan

    All the panic wannabe hockey experts in here, funny. Smith walking pain free, i said relax, the sooner you realize i have forgotten more about this game than most of you will ever know, the happier we all will be.

  • Alberta Ice

    Just a post game comment from the Flames and Rangers game. I said Sather and the management made a genius psychological move by basically saying the their team was done and out of the playoffs and big trades were coming. Response? The Rangers beat the Flames and tonight beat the Jets. Clever stuff indeed. Maybe the Oilers need to do the same? (Oh, yeah. The Rangers are out of the playoffs by 2 pts.; the Oilers by 16 pts. Never mind.)