Less than 24 hours after a fairly big victory over the Leafs, the Calgary Flames (18-21-3, 39 points) are back in action when they face the Montreal Canadiens (18-12-9, 45 points) at Bell Centre. The Flames are six points behind Montreal for the last playoff spot, with the Habs having three games in hand. Needless to say, their head-to-head clashes tonight and Friday will be big for both clubs’ playoff hopes and dreams.
The puck drops just after 5 p.m. MT and you can catch the game on Sportsnet West (and the national feed) or on Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Lindholm – Tkachuk
Mangiapane – Monahan – Dube
Lucic – Backlund – Nordstrom
Leivo – Ryan – Ritchie
Giordano – Tanev
Hanifin – Andersson
Valimaki – Stone
Jacob Markstrom starts, backed up by Louis Domingue. The projected extras are Buddy Robinson and Nikita Nesterov. The taxi squad is Artyom Zagidulin, Oliver Kylington, Alex Petrovic, Adam Ruzicka, Zac Rinaldo and Dominik Simon. Don’t expect many, if any, changes from last night’s lineup.
The Flames were rock-solid against the Leafs, getting some key contributions from their special teams – a big goal in the second and a big double-minor kill in the third – and were just fine at five on five. The win gives them two in a row and, according to Major League manager Lou Brown, one more win and they’re on a winning streak. It’s happened before, and continuing their winning ways is crucial to stoking the embers of their fading playoff hopes.
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The Canadiens

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Tatar – Danault – Byron
Toffoli – Suzuki – Armia
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Anderson
Lehkonen – Staal – Perry
Kulak – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – Ouellet
Jake Allen starts for Montreal, backed up by Cayden Primeau. Their extras are Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill. Their taxi squad is Cayden Primeau, Michael McNiven, Otto Leskinen, Jake Evans and Michael Frolik. (As with Tuesday’s game, expect some last minute shuffling for Montreal’s lineup from the taxi squad.) Joel Armia makes his return from a while on the COVID-19 list.
Montreal beat Toronto on Monday, snapping a string of games with fairly blah results for the Habitants. Before their recent skid, the Habs looked home free for the post-season. But now they’re masters in their destiny. They have the high ground in the standings and games-in-hand, but they can basically put the Flames to bed with a pair of wins before the weekend.
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The numbers

Calgary
Montreal
Wins
18
18
Points (%)
39 (.464)
45 (.577)
Adjusted Corsi For
51.8%
56.0%
Expected Goals For
51.5%
54.9%
Power Play
20.4%
20.6%
Penalty Kill
80.6%
76.7%

The drive to 65

If you peruse most standings projections, it becomes apparent that 65 points probably gets you into the playoffs. That’s a 32-23-1 record, or thereabouts, or a .580 points percentage.
The Flames have an 18-21-3 record, 39 points, and a .464 points percentage. They need 26 more points to punch their ticket to the post-season, the equivalent of a .929 points percentage over the remaining 14 games. At this point, 65 points is a fantasy.
The Flames’ tragic number is 11.5. Any combination of 11.5 Calgary losses and Montreal wins eliminates the Flames from playoff contention.

Unfit to play report

The Flames are healthy.
The Canadiens are without Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher and Ben Chiarot.

When last we met

The Flames have won three of their first four games against Montreal. Including tonight, they face Montreal five more times before the end of the season.
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Know thy enemy

Your recommended Twitter follows for tonight’s contest: