5 PM MT
Opposition: The Cannon
The Flames make a move south tonight to Columbus, on the heels of a game that, as Kent noted in the post-game, they were fortunate to hang on to. That second period was a drowning, but the Flames have a pretty good goalie these days, and the Jokinen marker gave them the space they needed to ride things out with mimimal fuss in the third. This evening, we'll get a look at the Flames' number two, against a team that can't seem to shut off the goals against.
It was a strange game for the Jokinen line, because they scored via Lundmark right off the hop, and then didn't really have much going on until the first shift of the third, when Jokinen took advantage of a good pass from Lundmark to close the Wings out. They weren't any worse than any other Flames line in terms of possesion, and goals went in. Progress, of sorts, I suppose. They mostly were up against the Zetterberg line yesterday, and this could be an interesting line-matching night. Hitchcock didn't go straight P v P against Calgary in their last match-up, but Jokinen and Iginla were split for that game. In the first meeting at home, the Jackets went with Pahlsson for 12 of Iginla's 17 minutes. Since that time, Columbus has gone more P v P, so maybe the Juice/Nash duo will go head to head in this one.
I haven't heard any news regarding Bourque, so the Langkow group will carry on with David Moss. They survived a night against Datsyuk and Holmstrom, at least goal-wise, with Dawes scoring with some help from the WIngs, Datsyuk in particular. They, and the other lines, appear to be in a holding pattern until the return of number 17. If the coaches just go right down the line in terms of assignments, that would leave Langkow's line against the Voracek-Umberger set, and Conroy's line against Pahlsson.
The D continues without Sarich, who apparently has a lower body injury. Given his relative ineffectiveness since returning from the foot malady that kept him out to start the year, I wonder if this isn't just an injury that has never quite healed, as opposed to a new issue. Not that we'll ever find out, of course, given how the Flames keep information tight in these matters. Aaron Johnson draws back in, which really means Calgary is playing with 5 1/2 D in terms of ice time.
Kipper gets a well-deserved night to watch. He was excellent last night, keeping the Wings off the sheet, albeit with a couple of timely assists from the striped shirts. No matter, it was quality stuff by any measure, and Curtis McElhinney will be hard pressed to follow that sort of action. If Kiprusoff keeps up this level of play, he's got an honest shot at another Vezina, and the fact that I can type that without sarcasm is very nice, indeed.
Columbus isn't quite where they were last year in terms of team play. Last season, they were about 3 shots to the good for every 60 minutes of EV TOI. This year, they're 1 shot to the bad, and when you throw in Steve Mason looking decidedly below average, you have a team that has gone from 9th in goals allowed per game to 28th. They held the Senators to 2 goals on Thursday, but they're still surrendering 3.46 goals a game, so if you want a key to beating them, uh, shots, maybe? Like always, I know, but Columbus is really having problems keeping the puck out, even with Hejda and Commodore back in the line-up. Those top two lines can still create havoc, though, and it isn't like the Flames are air-tight in their own zone.
Columbus might seem a bit vulnerable, but the Flames are on the second night of a B2B, and they really rode Kiprusoff last night, so a quiet first period might not be so bad. McE was very good in Dallas, but I hope he isn't forced to face that sort of onslaught tonight. A power play or two, and a goal from that, wouldn't be bad either. The Flames haven't had a run and gun night in a while, but with McE at one end and the Jackets floundering at the other, this might be a night where a few goals go in.
Game time is 5 MT, with coverage by the CBC from Winnipeg west. in Alberta only, but there is streaming video via the CBC website.