The Calgary Flames (35-28-10) are a lot like Charlie Brown in the Peanuts series. The football is right there. It’s in front of them. They should be able to kick the football. But they’re just not able to kick the football this season, often whiffing and falling down in spectacular fashion. Tonight, the Flames head to the desert to play the Arizona Coyotes (23-37-11) – the worst team in the National Hockey League – and really, really, really need to get two points to have any damn hope of making the playoffs. These are desperate times.
The puck drops just after 8:00 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Bennett
Brouwer (A) – Backlund – Frolik
Ferland – Jankowski – Stewart
Lazar – Stajan – Hathaway
Giordano (C) – Hamilton
Kulak – Hamonic
Andersson – Stone
Mike Smith starts for the Flames. He’s 24-19-6 with a 2.62 goals against average and .918 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The projected healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski, Nick Shore, Kris Versteeg and Tanner Glass, while Matthew Tkachuk remains out with a suspected concussion and it seems likely that T.J. Brodie won’t play tonight due to an unspecified upper-body injury he suffered last night. Rasmus Andersson has been recalled as a result and will play, so presumably this means Bartkowski sits and the Flames go with some weird pairings tonight.
The Flames need to score goals and win games, and it doesn’t matter much how they do it at this point. They’re running low on games to get enough points to qualify for the playoffs. This game needs to be a statement game – and that statement needs to be “look at this team score goals and dominate” – otherwise they simply won’t have enough left in the tank to make the playoffs. At this point, they’ll need a miracle.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Keller – Stepan – Panik
Domi – Dvorak – Perlini
Archibald – Hamilton – Fischer
Martinook – Richardson – Cousins
Ekman-Larsson – Demers
Chychrun – Goligoski
Connauton – Hjalmarsson
Darcy Kuemper starts for the Coyotes. He’s 21-12-4 with a 2.25 goals against average and .925 save percentage. He’s backed up by Antti Raanta, who started (and lost) against Minnesota on Saturday. The scratches are projected to be Luke Schenn and Zac Rinaldo.
The Coyotes are the NHL’s worst team, but they’re just one point behind Buffalo for 30th. If they want to stay in the basement, they’re gonna have to keep losing games. Also, tonight’s just the second ever Battle of the Hamiltons: Freddie and Dougie play each other for the first (and only) time since October 2013 – Dougie’s Bruins won that game.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) and Marek Hrivik (upper-body) are on the injured reserve. Matthew Tkachuk (suspected concussion) remains out, but on the active roster.
Arizona: Dave Bolland (lower-body) is on the injured reserve. Laurent Dauphin (lower-body) is hurt but remains on the active roster.
When Last We Met
The Flames love playing the Coyotes, because they beat them rather frequently. In two meetings, the Flames have won 3-0 and 5-2. They’ll meet one more time in Calgary in early April.
Know Thy Enemy
These folks will tweet desert hockey tonight:
Sum It Up
The Flames have nine games remaining. They desperately need points to stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff race, and they can’t afford to be snobby about where they get them.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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