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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

FGD 40: Flames close out 2018 against the Sharks (7pm MT, SN1)

The Calgary Flames (23-12-3, 50 points) have had an up-and-down 2018. But they head into their last game of the calendar in first place in the Pacific Division. If they want to finish 2018 in first place they’ll need a strong performance against the San Jose Sharks (21-12-7, 49 points), who sit one point back of the Flames.

The puck drops just after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

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

Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Kylington – Andersson

David Rittich is back between the pipes for the Flames, backed up by Mike Smith. The healthy scratches are Dalton Prout and Austin Czarnik.

Flames head coach Bill Peters has crafted a lineup that looks pretty close to what the team’s “ideal” composition probably is these days. Michael Frolik is reunited with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund on the shutdown line, while the rest of the lineup is basically status quo. The Sharks are a deep team, so the move makes a lot of sense.

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Peters hopes the Flames can simplify things offensively, noting after Saturday night’s overtime loss to Vancouver that they need to play more direct and make less cute plays. We’ll see if the imposing threat of the Sharks creates a bit more urgency in their game.

The Sharks

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Radil – Couture – Meier
Sorensen – Thornton – Pavelski
Kane – Hertl – Labanc
Donskoi – Goodrow – M.Karlsson

Vlasic – Braun
Simek – Burns
E.Karlsson – Dillon

Aaron Dell starts for the Sharks, backed up by Martin Jones. The projected scratches are Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed and Rourke Chartier.

The Sharks are coming off a 7-4 win against Edmonton on Saturday night. They’re on a big roll, with just three regulation losses in December and on a 7-1-2 clip over their last 10 games. They’re finally finding their stride after a bit of a sluggish start and they’re finally looking like the team everyone expected to see.

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The Numbers

CGY SJS
Wins 23 21
Points 50 49
Corsi Close 53.5% 57.3%
Power Play 21.0% 22.7%
Penalty Kill 80.2% 84.3%

Injury Report

The Flames are without Juuso Valimaki, Andrew Mangiapane and Michael Stone.

The Sharks are healthy.

Season Series

This is the second of four meetings between these rivals this season. The Flames lost 3-1 to San Jose back in November, but that was also on the second half of a back-to-back on the road.

Know Thy Enemy

Your Sharks Twitter follows for tonight:

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  • Skylardog

    Funny how I keep looking at the shots on goal against looking for Ritter to be at least 10 saves per goal (a 0.909). Just pulling for the guy all the time. Fell short tonight but sure like the way he plays.

  • freethe flames

    This gets out of control because the refs miss the slash/spear by Dell on Bennett and then the cross checks on Johnny. I sure hope that there are no suspensions out of the Bennett hit.

    • MontanaMan

      Ridiculous that four officials miss the slash/spear by Dell on Bennett. There’s nobody around when Bennett gets stuck and nobody sees it. Unbelievable.

    • Skylardog

      Benny got speared in the “midsection” by the Sharks goalie, no call. He looked like a seal on the ice as he went down. Benny tried to get at him a couple of shifts later but the refs were ready and got in between.

      After a scrum with less than a minute left, of Sharks including Kane, against Byng, and Hath, Benny came out next shift and absolutely flattened one of the Sharks Dmen with a clean but slightly late hit. It was a cruncher. Thornton and Couture looked surprised and disgusted like they couldn’t understand why it happened as they beaked the Flames bench for about 2 minutes.

      It was classic. Benny was great – Did you know Neal scored?

  • Jourflamesfan

    Hmmm I got this guy feeling.
    Their not playing good enough lately. On a bit of a slide and not the greatest record vs Pacific rivals they are COMPETING with.
    I feel a loss but the good news I felt that when we played the Jets and we won.
    Go Flames Go!

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      We tend to show up against big opponents. But yeah, our team game is not where it should be. One bit of GG philosophy I didn’t mind was his idea of “building a goal” via a series of continuous, momentum-building shifts from each line, eventually wearing the other team down to the point of a goal. I think when our team is at its best, we are relentless, coming in hard wave after wave. 5v5 play helps with this, and special teams really break this momentum, but again, we gotta get better with this, and recovering our momentum. We must take the lead when it comes to our own success, and I do think we’ve shown good flashes of this, but when we have sagged of late, I think its just us not really forcing the play enough.

      Guys like Chucky, Bennett, Gaudreau, and even Hathaway help with this with their grittiness, big plays, etc., but again, we need more of a team effort tonight, lads.

      GFG!

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Was that a GG thing? BP seems to suggest this with his play when down a goal. Only problem this season was that when he gets two good shifts in a row, the 3rd shift looses that momentum. Case in point is when the 4th line has a good shift, followed by the top line who draws a penalty. The 2nd PP unit comes out and wastes about half the PP. The top unit spends the next 30 seconds getting set up for a single chance.

        Gotta fix the personnel on the 2nd unit. Backlund should not be considered an offense generator. Hanifin is okay, but can rarely keep the puck in. Put Ras out there and go with a 3F unit. Neal-Janko-Ryan or something like that. Give Ryan the faceoffs and then he can play off the half wall. Get Neal in front and let him screen and pick up the garbage. Ras can get the puck on net.

        • Brian McGrattan's Salute

          Yeah, I mean, I heard him talk about it a lot, but I’m sure it’s also more standard coaching knowledge.

          But good points. This is where a good team structure and planning comes in to effect. We have yet to develop a reliable third line, which in itself makes this kind of thing kinda tough. I as well as others would likely suggest to spread out the talent a bit by having a line up like this

          JG Mony Lindholm
          Chucky Janko Neal
          Frolik Backs Benny
          Dube Ryan Hath

          Or Lindholm on second, or something else like this. “Building goals” would likely benefit from a more balanced lineup (read: a functional second and third line). Maybe this is just a case of us missing a middle six winger, or like others (Skylardog) have suggested, a lack of a defined role for players like Frolik, and the issue of having Neal on a third line with two younger players who aren’t clicking as well as they could (i.e., for Neal, creating space for him, and giving him slick feeds). It might be a system thing, too, though I won’t go there, as I really like what BP has done thus far, and clearly there are results.

          It could be player usage issues, with only like 5-9 forwards playing in third periods some games, which factors in to the aforementioned questions re lineup. As others have intoned, we have indeed yet to see the Chucky-Janko line BP was threatening.

  • Skylardog

    Other than the Tampa game, they really haven’t played well since Nashville on Dec 8, although they put in a decent first period against St Louis, and played just ok against Minny. That is a 9 game stretch. In that time they were shut out twice, had 5 games where they scored 2 or less, and only gained 10 of a possible 18 points, substandard for this edition of the Flames.

    The biggest concern over that stretch should be that they have been outscored 5v5, 10 GF and 17 GA. Thanks goodness the PK posted a plus 3 of 6 GF and only 3 GA. That is an amazing stat or it would be even worse point wise.

    I am very concerned by what we may see tonight. This team has worked and played hard to come all the way to Dec 31 on tops in the Pacific. It would be a shame to lose that lead tonight in the last game of the year. We need BSD to be lights out amazing tonight.

    This is a huge game that win or lose, will have a big impact on how this team performs for the rest of the season. I think a bit differently than most of you, and would like to see a blowout by SJ so that this team can make the necessary changes to the lines and lineup that will carry us into the playoffs and a potential Stanley Cup run..

    On the other hand I hate it when they lose.

  • Alberta Ice

    The Flames seem to up their level of play against the league’s best teams. Expect a good barn burner tonight. On a side note, the Canucks were so exhausted from playing the Flames the other night, they couldn’t rebound against the Devils today. Anyway, a Happy New Year’s Eve to you all. GFG.