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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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  • Mickey O

    Bad call by Gulutzan playing Smith in net. I thought he said they were going to try and manage his starts? On this 6 game road trip, you would think that Smith with 4 games, and Rittich with 2 would have been ideal. This would have been the ideal time to start Rittich and save Smith for Boston and Nashville on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.

    It isn’t as if Rittich has been a poor back-up, his numbers are excellent. If Smith plays 5 games on this trip, how exactly is that managing his ice time? Bad call by Gulutzan in my opinion, a very bad call.

    • Cfan in Van

      Totally agree. Smith has still been good, but I think there’s a reason his numbers have been sliding a bit. He needs rest. IF they make the playoffs, you know they’re going to ride him for every game, and he’ll be totally burnt by that point.

      • oilcanboyd

        I guess the biggest factor in Smith wanting (I say this because if he says he is ready to play a game coaches will give him the go) to play most games now is all the time off in January.

    • MontanaMan

      Let’s hope Smith pitches a shutout and makes you eat your words! In other news, I’m very interested to see how Bennett responds to a terrible effort and a call out from the coach.

      • Mickey O

        I hope any Flames goalie pitches a shutout in a game. I want to see the team do well. But if managing Smith’s starts is a priority (which it should be for a guy who will be 36 next month) then starting Rittich in this one should be an easy decision. He should have got the the start against the Sabres as well. I’m not hating on Smith, just looking at how things shape up for the rest of the season.

        Bennett? I don’t know. He tries to do too much. When he plays with complete snarl he’s still effective. One way to motivate himself might be to get into a scrap tonight. We’ll see.

        • MontanaMan

          I know you’re not a hater and I get your thoughts on Smith but the coach/trainer know him best and know if he’s tired. He’s in great shape so I think if he’s good physically and mentally, let him play.

          • Joeyhere

            Smith is a competitive guy he will always tell the coach he’s ready and he feels fine. But he has shown this season that toughest games are when he’s done a long stretch. Let him feel a bit hungry –
            60 games on the year would be a comfortable target and give the team a chance to really see what we have in Rittich

  • Alberta Ice

    Hey, Draisatil has his money in the bank; and soon will McDavid. The only aims they have left this season are a Hart trophy (w/o much team heart) and beating the Flames twice more for trying to keep us out of the playoffs. It’s really going to be interesting to see how they walk through the Cap Bowl this summer. Anyway, Flames need to get a win and not rely on other teams. They control their destiny. GFG.

    • Mickey O

      Watched the Sharks – Oilers yesterday. Apart from having about 10 players dressed that would be 4th liners, or bottom pairing defencemen, on a good team a lot of them are playing like they just don’t care. They aren’t even happy for each other when they score.

      I’ll bet that there is huge underlying problems in the dressing room. Lucic was terrible, and Maroon completely mailed it in. Those two guys should be veteran leaders on that team.

      Their home PK is the worst ever. Another amazing stat from the Oil – their goalies have let in a goal on the first shot 10 times this season. Ouch.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        How is it that they start the game allowing quality chances on the first shot? Have watched a few game (all I can stand with the announcers) and McDavid and Draisaitl are cheating towards the O-zone long before the team has control. He may be projected to be close to 97 points, but who cares if you can’t win. Sacrifice some offense for a little defense.

      • Cfan in Van

        “their goalies have let in a goal on the first shot 10 times this season.”

        That is truly amazing. That’s probably the most painful event, as a fan (or player, for that matter) trying to get into the flow of a hockey game.

        Nightmares of Elliot last season.

  • 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.

  • 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..

      • 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…

      • 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • freethe flames

    Most importantly tonight take care of your own business. Then who do you cheer for Sharks or Ducks; Sharks I think and hope for no 3 point games. It will be interesting to see if the Janko line steps up after being criticized by their GM; this really needs to happen. They need to find their game if this team wants to take the next step. Right now the 1st line is paying well as is the 4th line; Backs line needs to better as well.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    On well more than half the clubs in the NHL, Brodie is a first pairing defenceman. He is 27 and has two years left on a very cap friendly contract.

    Tell me why 31 other clubs wouldn’t be beating down Tre’s door if the GM announced TJ was available?

    Why wouldn’t TJ be worth a lottery pick? A 27-year-old first pairing defenceman with two very affordable years left on his contract. That screams early first round pick to me for any club that is serious about improving.

    • freethe flames

      for one thing there are 30 other teams not 31. Secondly if he would be a top pairing defender on 1/2 them it is 15 teams. TJ has not been as good since he has been forced to play on the L side and since he has been moved away from Gio. There are moments when he looks like the top pairing D that you speak of and then there are the other moments. However the same can be said for Hamilton and he is playing with Gio. Is there an upside to trading TJ and would he make some teams better; yes. But here is the question; who do we have to replace him? Is Kulak ready?