As the Flames embark on a set of divisional road games through the state of California, Bill Peters has once again opted to introduce new-look lines.
Well, they aren’t a completely brand new look. Noted for line shuffling throughout games – most recently against the Blackhawks, in which the Flames were able to overcome yet another third period deficit and pull out a much-deserved win – Peters appears to be sticking with what he had for most of that outing:
With Dillon Dube out due to concussion protocol after a boarding hit by Duncan Keith and the Flames presently only having one spare forward, Austin Czarnik draws back into the lineup.
It’s pretty difficult to argue with the success the top line has exhibited thus far with Lindholm on it (see: some of the prettiest goals the Flames have scored as of late), but James Neal joining Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund should make for an intriguing line. Both Neal and Tkachuk excel at being pests who draw penalties, while Tkachuk and Backlund have combined on a few pretty goals more often than not lately. Adding a sniper of Neal’s caliber to that group could really pay off.
The bottom six group looks capable enough of handling themselves, though without Michael Frolik’s goal explosion to start the season they’re pretty barren of offence, unless Sam Bennett can break through his snakebitten experiences to date. (Granted, Neal himself hadn’t been lighting the league on fire before, either.)
The defence is expected to remain the same, while Mike Smith draws back into the net. Smith is the only Flames goalie in recent years to have actually won a game in Anaheim, where the Flames will play Wednesday, but he also sports a .871 save percentage this season.