Having won three of their first four games on their lengthy eastern road trip, the Calgary Flames (29-19-8) face a big measuring stick in the form of the very strong Boston Bruins (34-12-8). The Flames have played well of late, winning four of their last five since a sloppy stretch of games at home. The Bruins have also been very good, winning five of six in February – with their one loss being an uncharacteristically flat game against Buffalo. Missing their top netminder Mike Smith for an unspecified amount of time, can the Flames keep their road momentum going and creep closer to a playoff berth?
The game starts just after 5 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
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
David Rittich starts for the Flames. He’s 5-1-2 with a 2.20 goals against average and .927 save percentage. He’s backed up by Jon Gillies. The expected healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik. The good news from this morning is that Smith is day-to-day with his lower-body injury, so he’ll be back relatively shortly.
The Flames are without one of their most valuable players in Smith, but Johnny Gaudreau has been dynamite lately. He was named the NHL’s Second Star for the past week. He sits third in the NHL in scoring heading into tonight’s action with 66 points, just five points behind Nikita Kucherov for the lead. Gaudreau is on pace for 97 points, which would be the best Flames single season offensive performance since Jarome Iginla netted 98 points back in 2007-08.
For those of you who like drafting, here’s a fun tidbit: the Flames’ top five goal-scorers this season are all home-grown draft picks (Gaudreau, Micheal Ferland, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, and Mikael Backlund).
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
DeBrusk – Krejci – Spooner
Heinen – Nash – Backes
Schaller – Kuraly – Acciari
Chara – McAvoy
Krug – Carlo
Grzelcyk – McQuaid
Tuukka Rask starts for Boston. He’s 22-9-4 with a 2.11 goals against average and .924 save percentage. Anton Khodobin backs up – his numbers are almost as good as Rask’s. The healthy scratch is Paul Postma. Frank Vatrano and Kevan Miller are nursing injuries.
The Bruins were solid but not amazing last season, but did a good job working in some youngsters into their lineup. This season, they’ve taken a massive leap forward. They have a really effective mixture of savvy veterans and hungry youngsters. They have five rookies in their lineup, and they’re in important spots in their lineup. The emergence of these rookies has really made the Bruins dangerous, because line-matching is very, very tough to do.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip) and Troy Brouwer (facial fracture) are on the injured reserve. Mike Smith (lower-body) is hurt but on the active roster.
Boston: Anders Bjork (upper-body) is on the injured reserve. Frank Vatrano (lower-body) and Kevan Miller (undisclosed) are hurt but on the active roster.
When Last We Met
These teams haven’t played each other yet this season. They split the two meetings last season, with the road team winning each game. They’ll meet again on Monday in Calgary.
Know Thy Enemy
Here are some wicked smart people that tweet Bruins hockey:
Sum It Up
It’s the fifth game of a six game road trip, and a big test for the Flames as they face one of the best teams in the entire league without one of their best players.
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