Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

FGD 14: Back home to host the Avalanche (7pm MT, SN One)

It’s November! The Calgary Flames (7-5-1, 15 points) kick the month off with a big game against a Western Conference foe, the Colorado Avalanche (7-3-2, 16 points). After three consecutive strong outings, can the Flames keep things rolling along?

The action starts at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Neal
Hathaway – Ryan – Dube

Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic

Valimaki – Andersson

Mike Smith starts for the Flames, backed up by David Rittich. The projected scratches are Dalton Prout (again), Michael Stone and Austin Czarnik. (It’s Prout’s 13th healthy scratch this season, easily leading the team.)

The Flames have played three good games in a row and have points in three straight games (2-0-1). The keys tonight? More of the same. They’ll need a better start than they got in Buffalo, as Rittich had to be very sharp early, and ideally their special teams units will step up and help out what’s been a pretty stingy even strength club lately.

The Avalanche

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Kerfoot – Kamenev – Wilson
Nieto – Soderberg – Calvert
Dano – Dries – Greer

Girard – Johnson
Cole – Barrie
Zadorov – Nemeth

Semyon Varlamov starts for Colorado, backed up by Philip Grubauer. Their scratches are Mark Barberio and Gabriel Bourque.

The Avalanche are playing their first game since Saturday; they’ve had four days off after playing three games in their previous four evenings. They lost two of those three games, so they’re looking to return to form. They’re short a few key bodies, but they’re still young, fast and talented.

The Numbers

Wins 7 7
Points 15 16
Corsi Close 53.2% 49.7%
Power Play 15.1% 23.9%
Penalty Kill 72.7% 88.5%

Injury Report

The Flames are healthy.

The Avalanche are without JT Compher, Tyson Jost and Sven Andrighetto, who are all on the injured reserve right now.

History Lesson

This is the second game between Calgary and Colorado this season. The Flames beat them in Denver in October after giving up two goals in the first two and a half minutes. It was that game where Gaudreau scored in overtime and Rittich was celebrating before he even scored. They’ll play once more in Calgary in January.

Know Thy Enemy

Your Avalanche Twitter follows for tonight:

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I think the experiment of Janko playing with Bennett should be over. In fact, Janko does not seem to have the upper body strength to be effective center for this line. I would like to see how he would do on the wing, rather than cycling him in and out of the line up at 3Cor 4C. I would love to see him use his speed and shot as a winger.

    • calgaryfan

      He played wing at college his first 2 years I think. Would be a good experiment. He has not done much at center this year. Dube has been better at center than Janko.

      • Rudy27

        I seem to recall Dube centering Bennett and Neal a short while back and they looked good together. I think Dube’s IQ as a center could create more chances on that line than Janko at this time.

        • L.Kolkind

          I like the idea Bennett and Neal have been looking great lately just need a break to start producing consistently and Dube has been buzzing all year so far.

    • MDG1600

      This is not a defence of Jankowski because he hasn’t been good…but… Bennett is the common denominator on his line not producing. Doesn’t seem to matter who Bennett plays with, the line doesn’t produce. IMHO Sam simply does not drive any offense. I like Sam as a 3rd liner smashing home some rebounds, providing energy and laying out some bodychecks.

      • cberg

        I wouldn’t say either Jankowski or Bennett have been bad. Each have generated numerous grade A chances. Up to this season I might have agreed on Bennett, but this year he’s made significant progress in working with his line mates, just had 3-4 goals waved off and hit a bunch of posts.

        • Cfan in Van

          I agree that Bennett has greatly improved this season in driving play and generating chances. Without looking at any numbers, I’d say he’s producing a lot more chances than Janko is so far. Hope Janko finds his game this season…

  • scottso

    Anyone else feel like Rittich should be starting, given how strong he’s been? Or are we still assuming/hoping that Smith shows up as a number 1 more consistently?

  • Chucky

    So on July 1 the Flames go out and sign Czarnik for 1.25 million. It seems that they are among 20 teams that are interested. After a few games it is obvious why Boston was willing to let him go and that a team as soft as the Flames they cannot afford him in the lineup.
    So rather than get out and find one of those 20 teams willing to give up an asset for him he eats popcorn.
    Also it is pretty obvious that Stone is the 7th defenseman, if one of the top 6 goes down with an injury is Prout good enough to fill in or do they need to keep Stone around. How about one of the guys down in Stockton could they fill in and make Stone surplus?
    There could be real value coming back for a combination of Czarnik and Stone.

    • withachance

      There’s a reason that there is almost no trades between the start of the season until a week before the trade deadline (unless its for pending RFAs). No GMs want to make moves because they are smart enough to know to evaluate their own teams and the changing landscape of the league.

      Giving up on Czarnik 13 games into the season is laughable. Trading away a serviceable NHL defenceman when the team is one injury away from a questionable 3rd pairing is laughable. Granted all bets are off in February but I imagine its going to take some Garth Snow level GMing to do what you’re suggesting

      • Chucky

        Czarnik was an obvious AHLer in the preseason. At 25 years old he has played 67 games with goals and hits (0.34 per game)
        People love to complain about Sean Monahan playing soft and he is 24 years old 406 games 143 goals and 188 hits (0.46 per game)
        Admittedly Johnny Gaudreau has a lower hit per game rate than Czarnik but not only does he score but he sets up goals and can dominate a game. Also Johnny has what it takes to body Dustin Byfuglien into the boards and take the puck, you are not going to find Czarnik within 20 feet of Byfuglien.
        The only hope is to deal Czarnik to a team that can afford a fast guy who will not get involve physically.

        • withachance

          This is 2018. Hits dont win teams games. They’re nice and a needed part of the game, but hits dont win games. Speed win games. Skill win games.

          Edmonton has Lucic, Kassian, Brodziak, Nurse. Would you want EDM tough hitting roster over the Flames? Take McDavid out, who is the fastest and most skilled guy in the league and you have a team who can lead the team in hits per game… and they’d be last in the entire league. Hits per game as a stat is probably worse than the +/-

          “Johnny has what it takes to body Byfuglein into the boards…” This statement alone should render your entire comment moot.
          “Monahan is soft” I’d rather him hit literally no one and keep those hands healthy and score 14pts in 13 games.

          We all knew what Czarnik was: a calculated, safe risk. 20/30 GMs wouldve taken that….

    • Cfan in Van

      There could be real value, if we found someone who wants that package for 3.75M. My own thoughts are that the perceived value of the players is greatly diminished by their contracts, and at this point, the value of the depth they provide (another center, NHL defense depth that we can’t replace) is more valuable than the return they’d get. I think they’d end up taking back something that’s also a bit over priced, even if they found the right partner.

      • Luter 1

        Czarniks not the problem, gives some depth and is young with obvious hidden talent, he may or may not become something. Now Ryan on the other hand is 31 and useless and is making 3 plus! What was BT thinking and how smart is our new coach pushing to bring him in? The coach thinking this guy is useful and worth 3 plus scares me more than wasting 10 mill over 3 years on our new Stajan

        • canadian1967

          The problem with Backs is that he will often play incredibly well shutting down one of these elite lines, and maybe even outscore them, but then will contribute zero offense in the other 60 games he plays.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Tkachuk looked off last game….but of course he sucks it up and scores the tieing goal. There does not appear to be a goal scorer on the 3M line. Backlund has 1 goal, Frolik has 5 goals but 3 are EN, and Tkachuk is a master at deflecting pucks for goals but he seems to get most of his points playing with an extra man. There are not a lot of holes in his game but he could work on getting his shot off quicker.

    • Burnward

      I love Backs’ defensive game. But he isn’t making 6 mil to just to that.

      He’s settling for what he’s exceptional at. Not uncommon. But this team needs a second-line center that puts up more than 10 goals a year at his pay rate.

      • Avalain

        I personally would be fine with him simply scoring more than the other team while he’s on the ice, and playing against the top lines. In terms of scoring, I’d really like to see more from our bottom lines. I remember starting the season thinking that the bottom lines are incredibly deep and should make a lot of noise this year. Well, so far that hasn’t happened.

      • Purple Hazze

        First off, he makes $5.3MM not $6MM. And maybe you need to adjust your expectations of what a center in that salary range puts up points wise. His closest comparable is Adam Henrique who signed for $5.8MM about 6 months after Backlund, he put up 36 points last year. Next closest Turris making $6MM signed a few months before Backs, he put up 42 points last year, another comparable would be Brian Little, signed his deal about 6 months before Backs, making $5.3MM, he put 43 points last year. Backlund’s offense seems to be right at fair market value, for the price we are paying, and that’s even before you start considering the defensive side of his game.

        • Brian McGrattan's Salute

          Thanks purple hazze (dope name btw). Like hello everyone, inflation. This is the market for a Backlund type player. Don’t hate the player hate the game, etc etc.

  • RKD

    The Flames will have their work cut out for them the Avs are top heavy, Rantanen is dominating the league. If we can shut him down and Mackinnon we have a chance. Get more traffic in front of Varlamov he is playing out of skull and leads the league in save percentage.

  • MontanaMan

    Rittich appears to be quicker in the crease and might be a better fit against the quicker teams that move the puck and have forwards who can fly. Smith has been 1/2 second late this year which could prove fatal against a very quick Avalanche team.

    • Chucky

      It seemed like they were over committing early and that the Peters approach to the game was to let them jump into the play. That resulted in a lot of odd man rushes against. The Pittsburgh game gave them a lot of opportunity to study the tape and see the when not to jump. As bad as it was to watch and play that game was a great instructional opportunity. Peters used it and it looks like they have grasp the system even to the point where Hamonic looks like he feels comfortable pushing offensive advantage when it occurs.
      Another thing with Hamonic is that the team is going to throw themselves into a pit of snakes to cover for a team guy like that.

    • Cfan in Van

      Hamonic has been solid. I’m sure it’s at least partly to do with not being saddled to a Brodie playing on the wrong side this year. Hamonic-Hanifin > Hamonic Brodie.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I don’t quite understand how BT goes out of his way to fly to Michigan to sign Czarnik in what appeared to be a bidding war just so BP can sit him. I find it hard to believe that any coach could evaluate a player in under 10 regular season games. I am not sure how he justifies sitting him for a third game against one of the quicker teams in the league.

    There is no denying that players like Czarnik and Janko need more grit. Czarnik could easily use his body more like Johnny has started to do. But, I would argue that all 20 teams that were bidding for Czarnik knew the type of player he is and they still lined up for his services. Similiary, Janko is not going to sit a game and have the light suddenly go on and come out playing like Joel Otto…not going to happen. If GG can get 17 goals out of barely using Janko I expect much more from a competent coach. As it stands, we are getting very little offense from our bottom 6 which has far superior pieces than last year. Maybe Janko can be moved to wing like teams have done with Galchenyuk and Drouin to get his scoring going…or maybe he sits the odd game and then is put back on the same line. As good as our top 6 has been it has not been much better than last year.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      Yeah I agree. Bottom six scoring will be key for us (and for all teams). Maybe it’s them getting under 10 mins a game? BPs style is to shorten the bench if we’re chasing or the game is close. I would love a bit of a lead so that he can run the other lines more…they need more ice time–if not for getting comfortable individually at least for line cohesion and chemistry.

    • Cfan in Van

      I’m just surprised that Czar is sitting for so long while Ryan has been looking pretty ineffective for the same time period. They’re basically swap-able items, so I’m wondering if there’s anything behind the scenes shaping that decision.

    • Luter 1

      Jankowski is not Peters pet ala Ryan, plain and simple. But Jankowski needs to get involved, don’t understand why he doesn’t realize this. Is it possible he gave up some quickness because of bulking up? He looks slower but looks large out there

  • Chucky

    The last few years the Flames have been struggling to catch up to the pack and lingering around the edge of the playoffs. I think that Peters has decided that he is going to overplay his top two lines early in the season, get well into the playoff picture and then look for some team balance. Every night all the lines get a chance to show up but if anyone stumbles it is to the blender heavy on the top 6. Hopefully they get a few easy games where everybody can establish themselves.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Memo to django: You have the speed and size. You can sometimes go thru people instead of around them if you so desired. More like a predator, less like a prey. Your confidence will return if you get more physically engaged.

  • everton fc

    What if Dube were given a few games at centre, flanked by Bennett and Neal? Maybe that’s the answer. A 4th line of Hathaway-Jankowski-Ryan might also produce.

    Dube might be the flash that helps Bennett and Neal scores some goals…

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    Keys to tonight’s game. In my humble opinion. Forward back checking. Good goal tending and scores from bottom six. Question for you guys, everyone is calling AVS top heavy. Aren’t we too heavy as well? Yeah we have depth on the paper but in reality only one line is scoring. Thoughts ( please spare me Backlund bashing doesn’t achieve anything)