You're like a dull old knife that just ain't cuttin'You're just talkin' a lot and sayin' nothingJust sayin' nothing, and sayin' nothingJames Brown - Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing
I really don't give much play to the specifics of what hockey players or coaches say to the press. Those comments are almost always cut from the big book of vanilla responses that hockey people apparently receive as toddlers. Deflection is the goal more often than illumination, and so it's mostly been these last few days in Flames-land, at least from the players. Tonight, the Canucks visit for the second time in 15 days, sans a Sedin and Salo, but likely better prepared than in the opener, so those words will get a test of their validity.
The lines have been adjusted. Conroy and Glencross are Jarome Iginla's new mates, in an effort to fix what's been ailing the Flames' captain. Since the acquisition of Jokinen last March, Iginla's play has taken a fall so dramatic that the press has noticed, but that strikes me as a lagging indicator. Iginla's drop-off as a two-way force became pretty obvious last year before Jokinen's arrival. There have been some comparisons to Jarmoe a la 05/06, but that guy was still a volume shooter and solid citizen in his own end, and the current iteration isn't. I suppose if nothing else, Conroy is certainly deferential to Iginla on offence, so we can see if it's simply a style mismatch with Joker that's been holding Iginla back, or if something more insidious is at play.
The second line got, to use Brent Sutter's term, a chance to distance themselves a bit on Tuesday. Dawes-Langkow-Bourque are back together this evening, with the Flames in need of their production, and hopefully a better +/- night to follow. The trio were -16 collectively in losses to Chicago and Dallas, and that sort of play hasn't been part of any of their historical makeups. They haven't been great, but I still suspect the bounces are mostly at play and it shouldn't last. After all, Langkow carried Sparklepants around for a good chunk of last year and posted better results.
The new "third" line features Jokinen between the Stroms. I guess getting Joker better match-ups is nice and all, but if this is his true level, trading Lombardi, a first and about 3.4 million in cap space for a guy that needs third-line opposition to succeed seems like a hell of a waste. I suppose we'll now get to see if two pluggers are what the Finn needs to spark him, but it doesn't seem like a long-term solution. In regards to Jokinen generally, I'm largely in concurrence with this from Matt Fenwick, sad to say.
The fourth line is still Prust-Boyd-McGrattan. They'll play 5 minutes at EV. Boyd will get some PK time. Blah. This team could use David Moss back in a big way, but his injury lingers, and the team has done a bang-up job of protecting the information. Darryl Sutter could teach CSIS a few things, IMO.
The back line has also undergone a make-over, with only the Regher-Phaneuf pair intact. They look as well-matched as Iginla-Jokinen to my eye, but they endure. Bouwmeester gets Cory Sarich as a running buddy for the night, and Giordano joins Adam Pardy. Puck-movers with , uh, non-puck-movers, I suppose. I don't hate it.
Miikka Kiprusoff will likely start again. He deserves a bit more than what the team has given him to this point, and if they ever move anybody from the front of the net, he'd likely appreciate it.
The Canucks have rebounded from their 0-3 start with two wins, the last being a 4-3 win over Dallas on Sunday. Since then, they've been trying to arrange line mates for the standing Sedin and Burrows, with Steve Bernier receiving a chance the other night, and Michael Grabner possibly getting a look this evening. As for the other recent Vancouver injury, I like this description enough to post it again:
Roberto Luongo is the likely opposition in net. He's sporting a .879 SV%. Enjoy it while it lasts, people.
To the game itself, the shake-up in who plays with whom is a part of Sutter trying to find some groups he can trust, because right now, he's got roughly none, other than the PP. A win would be nice, but at some point it seems that getting more shots than the other team might be a good plan, no? The current state of play won't sustain many more victories, and judging by B. Sutter's snippy response to questions this morning, the line juggling is part of his attempt to get things turned. The Canuck PP is also in good form, but their PK still looks off, so that is likely the place for the Flames to get an edge. I did notice Shane O'Brien has a minor in 4 of the first 5 games. Not saying the Flames can/should target him or anything, just pointing it out, you know, as a piece of information ;-)
Game time is 7 PM MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West.