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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

FGD 64: Starting the homestretch in Texas (6:30pm MT, SN West)

With the trade deadline dealt with, the Calgary Flames (32-22-9) kick off the final 19 games of the season deep in the heart of Texas against the Dallas Stars (35-23-4). The Flames begin the homestretch tied for the second wild-card position with Los Angeles, but they’re both (a) within striking distance of a couple divisional playoff spots and (b) within striking distance of a few other teams that are trying to get into the playoffs. Every game is huge from here on out but the Flames have put themselves in a position where they don’t need to be the best team in the Western “pile,” they just need to be better than a couple teams.

The game kicks off just after 6:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Stewart
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Lazar – Stajan – Brouwer (A)

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

It’s the first half of a back-to-back: it likes from morning skate like Jon Gillies starts against the Stars. He’s 2-0-0 with a 2.54 goals against average and .914 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich, who likely starts tomorrow in Denver. The healthy scratches look to be Matt Bartkowski, Tanner Glass and Nick Shore, who didn’t arrive in Dallas in time for morning skate. Micheal Ferland didn’t travel with the team and will miss his second game in a row with an upper-body injury.

The Flames power play has been en fuego lately. They’ve scored goals in eight of their last nine games, dating back to Troy Brouwer briefly being forced from the lineup with his facial injuries which forced Glen Gulutzan to put Dougie Hamilton on the top power play unit. Since then? 11 power play goals in 41 opportunities, with Hamilton and Matthew Tkachuk accounting for seven of those 11 markers.

As we head into the homestretch, Johnny Gaudreau is fifth in the NHL in scoring (and leads all left wings), while linemate and best buddy Sean Monahan is tied for 22nd. Joining them on the top line tonight? Chris Stewart, most recently of the waiver wire and 12 healthy scratches in Minnesota. Life’s funny sometimes.

The Stars

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Elie – Seguin – Janmark
Roussel – Benn – Radulov
Shore – Faksa – Pitlick
Smith – Spezza – Ritchie

Lindell – Klingberg
Hamhuis – Pateryn
Methot – Johns

Ben Bishop gets the start for the Stars. He’s 24-17-3 with a 2.53 goals against average and .915 save percentage. He’s backed up by Atlanta Thrashers legend Kari Lehtonen. The projected scratches look to be Julius Honka, Jason Dickinson and Martin Hanzal. (Hanzal’s dealing with an unspecified injury, the other two are healthy.)

The Stars have been super streaky in their last month. They began by winning five in a row, then have lost four of their last six – coinciding with their power play going ice cold. They did nothing at the trade deadline, opting for solutions within their own locker room. Their playoff position is as tenuous as the Flames’.

Devin Shore is not related to Nick Shore.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip) and Marek Hrivik (undisclosed) are on the injured reserve. Mike Smith (lower-body) is hurt but on the active roster.

Dallas: The Stars have no major injuries.

When Last We Met

This is the final meeting between the Flames and Stars this season. Dallas has won the other two games by 2-1 and 6-4 scores.

The Numbers

CGY DAL
Wins 32 35
Points 73 74
Adjusted Corsi 52.4% 51.7%
Power Play 19.2% 19.1%
Penalty Kill 79.9% 82.0%

Know Thy Enemy

Check out these Stars-centric accounts:

Sum It Up

It’s a collision between two teams mired in playoff uncertainty. The homestretch begins tonight, as does 19 games where the Flames need to play playoff quality hockey to make it into the postseason.

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

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

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  • Kevin R

    Yup unf@***g believable. Lets take our 4th overall & highest pick in franchise history off the top line & put a waiver wire pick up on instead. That way we make sure we keep his ceiling & value as a 3rd line LW. I give up.

    • ALL THE WAY IN

      I think they’re just trying to give him a confidence boost by putting him up there. Lines can be changed throughout the course of a game. Take a chill pill bud.

  • seamax

    I am actually insulted on behalf of Troy Brouwer that Chris Stewart lands on the top line tonight. What did I do to deserve supporting a team with this kind of coaching staff?

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      Troy Brouwer has no right to be insulted. He gets kid glove treatment already and it is hard to justify him on the 4th line let alone 1st. If I have to choose between the two of them Stewart gets the slot every time.

  • Joeyhere

    If those are indeed the lines it’s A slap in the face to Bennett. miscast all year, dragged brower most of last year. He gets two games on the top line, generates offence, gets points but is cast off for someone else’s waiver dump. It’s like Sven bearchi all over again. The coach refuses to give offensive players a decent chance and instead says ” hey kid you just had two of your best games all year so I am demoting you to the third line! Always given never earned.

  • Burnward

    I think Stewart carries a lot more respect in that dressing room than to the keyboard geniuses here.

    Legit scary tough, has scored 30, has seen and done it all.

    Another presence that demands accountability from the opposition. Not enough on this roster that can also play.

  • Justthateasy

    Somebody mentioned Benn and his style of play. If Stewart can hold his own on the first line then he might become a nice option to ride shotgun when the going gets really tough. It was nice to see Bennett fit in on the first line and now we know he can do it. It allows for more future options. Nobody should get their nose out of joint.

  • smatic10

    My goodness can everyone calm down. Stewart in his NHL career has shown more of a goal scoring prowess than Bennett has. He’s only 30, he can possibly pot a goal here and there for us. We’re in the stretch drive, we need all the offense we can get. He’s a right shot and against popular belief, he can skate. If it doesn’t work out, Bennett will be back up there before you know it.

    • everton fc

      Bennett will be back on the first line, and productive, by the end of the first. At least that’s what I hope happens.

      Of course, if Stewart drives play and scores… I’m all for that, as well.

      What I’d like to see is Lazar on the third line. Lazar-Jankowski-Stewart. That, as a temporary 3rd line, intrigues me… So does Hathaway-Jankowski-Stewart. And even Hathaway-Jankowski-Lazar. Let’s see what Lazar can do, sans “plugs”.

      • Korcan

        A persistant thread on these boards is the argument that Lazar needs to be given more time with “productive” linemates and that the reason he hasn’t shown more is because of Brouwer and Stajan. Yet, i can recall a number of times he was bumped up the lineup (last season and earlier this season) and he did not show well. IMO he is perfectly suited for the fourth line – a heavy, fast, energy guy who can cause problems for the opposition in their own zone and who can chip in a garbage goal on occasion and hopefully not be a defensive liability. But I would not want him any higher than fourth line. The Flame’s top three lines NEED to be scoring lines if they are to realistically compete against other top teams. Laser will NOT help that third line be productive.

      • ThisBigMouthIsRight

        Yup, as you said earlier “In a sane world, in a playoff race” But alas, we here on FN don’t get paid the big bucks to be “genius”… But if it works?(doubtful) ….

    • Dougiefred

      Remember one night Stewart single handed destroyed the Flames believe he got a hat trick. Always has played well against the Flames, now we don’t have to worry about that.

  • Derzie

    The older the player, the greater the favoritism. GG’s ‘banking’ system at work. So insulting to put the new guy on the first line. 22 POd players. Joke coaching staff. The irony is, JG makes everyone better so the coach will self-congratulate tonight when it ‘works’. We all love when a new/old guy comes in and becomes our boss on day 0, Glen. What’s not to like? Lunkhead.

  • Sanintarious

    Lines when team is healthy?

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland
    Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik
    Bennett-Jankowski-Stewart
    Lazar-Shore-Versteeg

    Lazar switches out with Stajan from time to time?
    Hathaway?

    Its honestly such a cluster at the bottom I don’t even know where any one belongs. It’ll constantly be changing.

      • HOCKEY83

        They said on the Fan they were going to start him there and move him around until they find a fit for him. As far as I’m concerned he’s just another Brouwer on the team who certainly won’t be here next season. They’s mention that he could score a goal but was last on the team in all other stats with Minnie which is why he was a healthy scratch for 12 games and then waived. The only reason Brouwer isn’t getting the same treatment is his contract.

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    I kinda want to rant about Bennett being taken off the top line, but then I look at that line up and given that Brouwer somehow needs to be in the line up I’m not sure what the options are. When Ferland is back perhaps he slots in left wing with Janko and Benny goes back up. That sends Hathaway to the press box and that isn’t the worst thing. Then Versteeg comes back and Stajan sits?

    • seamax

      Since the team is only going to go as far as the top line can take it, I would have thought they’d keep Bennett there for the time being rather than reward somebody who should be out of the league entirely with the assignment, but I guess the coach can’t resist giving his new veteran toy a spin.

      • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

        I also think there is a “handedness” issue at play here. With Brouwer, Hathaway, Stewart and Lazar all right shots, it wouldn’t make sense to play a left shot on the RW.

        • deantheraven

          Right. Because a left shot like Ferland… Or Jagr… isn’t going to help Johnny and Monny.
          This might be the starting line up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see line swaps if this Stew fella doesn’t score or kick the crap out of somebody if they look at JH kinda funny. I’m ok with him in the line up for that purpose, but not sure how long I want him on the 1st line over Bennett, or even Lazar if it has to be a handedness thing..
          It’s on GG in the first period. If he’s so pumped to have Stewart, he might be tempted to play him too much too soon.He’s no fool, but I think GG will have an itchy finger as the pressure rises. He’s another guy like Stewart who is not only playing to win this season, but to have a job next season.
          Hopefully Bennett and Tkachuk and Johnny will all get a little ice time with each of their significant others (Monny, Backs & Janko). In the last few games the Flames have had real success ‘shifting on the fly’ and getting these guys on the ice together, regardless of handedness, And they’ve all looked great on the PP.

          • deantheraven

            If GG is going to give one of the 4 real righties a shot at playing up there (instead of Bennett?) I hope it’s Lazar. He gets hammered here on FN for his stats and it’s fair because he doesn’t score, but I’d also bet his NHLe didn’t project him to be a Top Scorer in this league.
            Only Top Scorers score with lesser players, and mediocre players seldom lift poor players up into the middle of the graph.
            But if you’ve watched the Flames, especially in the last 10 games, you know Lazar has played hard on every shift and every line. The play doesn’t often die on his stick. He’s had a few chances every night lately, and some bad luck, too. I say if they don’t leave Bennett up there till Ferland comes back (because,Handedness), give Lazar a shot at playing with elite players for a few games and see what happens. He’s not going to hurt them in the D zone, and his speed on the forecheck will get pucks to JH & Monny.

          • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

            I probably wasn’t very clear on what I meant. I agree Benny or Ferland work up there and one will likely end up back there when Versteeg is ready. The issue is really given what we have now there might actually be too many RHS players and so putting one on the top line makes sense from that perspective. I think Stewart comes out motivated and gives us a few really good games on the top unit. After that, who knows!

  • BendingCorners

    I don’t understand the angst over Stewart. He’s an upgrade in scoring over Brouwer and Hathaway. He’s not the long term answer but a short term fill in. Maybe when they play San Jose he can go out and pick a fight with Kane.
    First line is a strange spot to put him in but it probably won’t last. If he shows some jump and rattles Benn’s cage them it will have been a good move for one game.
    Not sure which team will show up tonight but I hope it’s the hungry one.
    GFG

    • The Penn

      Bennett looked really happy almost joyful the last few games playing with Johnny and Monahan and played really well.I hope he doesn’t see this as a demotion rather than a experiment by our useless coach. Who seems to build players up just to deflate them. Keep your head up kid