When the Calgary Flames play their next home game after tonight, they’ll have the luxury of having 24 of their final 40 games at the Scotiabank Saddledome.  As they play their last home game before seven on the road, that thought is probably a long way off, and so it should be.  For the final time in 2011, the Flames are at home, and they’ve got quite the test taking on the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 pm, TSN and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary snapped their four game losing skid Tuesday night with a fairly solid 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild and they get a little bit of a break, getting the Red Wings on the second half of a back-to-back set.  On the other hand, when the Flames roll into Vancouver tomorrow, they’ll be in the exact same situation as Detroit, so it evens out in the long run.  Tonight is the third meeting between the Flames and Red Wings this season; each team has won one so far.

The Lineup

A surprise injury will see another change to the Calgary Flames lineup tonight, as Alex Tanguay won’t play tonight with an undisclosed injury.  Tanguay played on Tuesday night against the Wild and there’s no word as to when Tanguay was injured; all Brent Sutter would say is that he was surprised he won’t be in the lineup.  Greg Nemisz was called up yesterday and will play tonight while Brett Carson was placed on IR with an upper body injury.
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Greg Nemisz
Tom Kostopoulos-Brendan Morrison-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Derek Smith-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich
Good to see Backlund reunited with Comeau and Stempniak, which has been a very effective line for the Calgary Flames.  They’ve been very strong with possession and they tend to spend more time in the offensive end than not.  The only thing I’d like to see more of is scoring chances, as the trio hasn’t done as effective a job as they could translating their impressive puck time to meaningful chances.
The third line will be interesting to say the least, and when it’s all said and done, they may end up getting less ice time than the Morrison trio.  With just 50 games combined between Byron, Horak, and Nemisz, we’re not talking about the most experienced line in the world.  That said, it’s a nice glimpse at what could be down the road so that’ll fun to watch.
Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net.

The Opponent

Following a 4-2 loss in Vancouver last night, Detroit comes in with wins in 12 of their last 15 games and have dispelled any questions about them that may have surfaced during their early season six game losing skid.  They remain the best possession team in the National Hockey League sitting second both in shots for (33.8) and shots against (27.1) and they continue to be lead by the outstanding duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Currently on seperate lines, Detroit’s elite pair have typically stupid possession numbers themselves, leading the way for a group that is basically in the plus across the board (Cory Emmerton not withstanding).  There aren’t very many weak links on this squad, which is why I never really bought into the "Detroit might be on the way down" talk heading into the season and early on when they had hit the skids a little.
Johan Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Jiri Hudler
Dan Cleary-Darren Helm-Drew Miller
Cory Emmerton-Justin Abdelkader-Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom-Ian White
Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Jonathon Ericsson-Jakub Kindl
Goaltending has been a downfall on this team in the past, but not this year, as Jimmy Howard continues to prove doubters wrong, shining in even the most advanced of statistical categories.  His .940 even strength save percentage comes while playing in 29 of Detroit’s games so far; Ty Conklin has seen just five games to this point with just one win to go along with his pedestrian numbers.  It’ll be Conklin starting tonight.

The Story

It’s Calgary’s last home game of 2011, so the team would like to go out on a strong note, and maybe they can take advantage of some fortunate circumstances with the opponent they’re playing tonight.  It’s Vancouver who catches the good fortune tomorrow, so a win tonight could really go a long way in making Calgary’s Christmas break a good one.