After nearly two weeks on the road, the Calgary Flames (30-20-8) are back on home ice! The Flames captured eight of a possible 12 points on the road, playing some pretty good hockey for the most part. They kick off a truncated home-stand tonight when they welcome the Florida Panthers (25-23-6) to town. The Fancy Cats aren’t quite as fancy as they used to be, as they’re eight games out of a playoff spot, but they’re still a fast young team.
The game starts 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 (A) – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Lomberg – Stajan – Lazar
Giordano (C) – Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone
David Rittich starts for the Flames. He’s 6-2-2 with a 2.47 goals against average and .921 save percentage. He’s backed up by Jon Gillies. The expected healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Morgan Klimchuk.
The Flames’ special teams have caused a great deal of hand-wringing of late, but they were one of the reasons they won against Nashville on Thursday night. For only the third time in the last 10 games, the Flames didn’t allow a power play goal. And for the first time since Dec. 31, they scored multiple power play goals. The Flames are a good even strength team, but good special teams will give them some breathing room in their games.
Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames in scoring and is second in the NHL, eight points behind fellow 2011 draft pick Nikita Kucherov. Gaudreau’s next goal will be his 20th, joining teammates Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk and Micheal Ferland in that club. Only two Flames score 20+ goals last season.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Dadonov – Barkov – Bjugstad
Huberdeau – Trocheck – Malgin
McGinn – McCann – Mamin
Haley – MacKenzie – Sceviour
Ekblad – Yandle
Matheson – Pysyk
Weegar – Petrovic
Roberto Luongo makes his long-awaited return to the Panthers crease for his first game since Dec. 4. He’s 6-6-1 with a 2.61 goals against average and .928 save percentage. Tonight will be Luongo’s 982nd career NHL appearance, third all-time behind only Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. He’s backed up by James Reimer. The expected scratches are Ian McCoshen, Connor Brickley and Radim Vrbata.
The Panthers are eight points out of the last wild-card spot, but they’ve won five of their last six games. Their one loss was to the Los Angeles Kings. Sure, their wins have been against some of the league’s odds and sods, but they’re still beating them. Florida’s no great shakes this year, but they’re still a young, proud bunch and could be a tough out for anybody who takes them lightly.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip), Troy Brouwer (facial fracture) and Marek Hrivik (undisclosed) are on the injured reserve. Mike Smith (lower-body) is hurt but on the active roster.
Florida: The Panthers are healthy.
When Last We Met
Tonight’s game polishes off the epic two-game season series between these teams. The Flames won 4-2 in Sunrise back in January.
Know Thy Enemy
Here are a few Panthers tweeters:
Sum It Up
The Flames continue their charge towards the playoffs as they head into the home-stretch of the season.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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