6 PM MT
Opposition: Mile High Hockey
TV: Sportsnet West
Friday's effort vs. the WIld isn't worth much in the way of a re-hash. The Flames were second-best by any measure except in net and were recipients of a point they didn't really merit. The good news is that they get a chance this evening to set that display aside, and exercise a bit of a demon to boot.
The Flames' best line last time out was the Jokinen line, although making that sort of assessment is likely as worthwhile as searching for quality in the oeuvre of Rob Schneider. They were in the black in terms of chances, but since Iginla isn't shooting 30% this month, the goals haven't gone in quite as easily. I'll be curious to see if Joe Sacco tries to run Stastny et al against that line tonight, because I still don't think Sutter is totally comfortable running P v P with this trio.
That might mean a night like Friday, where Langkow and Jokinen split time against the Koivu line. The night was very quiet chance-wise for Bourque-Langkow-Moss, and they have to produce with the way the lines are currently arrayed.
Beyond a good shift to produce the only goal against Minnesota, the third line was in pretty deep against Havlat and Brodziak. Martin Havlat is still a good player, but the other Wild forwards in the bottom six aren't that scary. I'll simply re-iterate my stance from Friday: Eric Nystrom isn't a top-nine NHL forward, and any long term plan that keeps him there will likely fail.
Craig Conroy was apparently close to playing Friday, with a sprained wrist having kept him out. My question to the paid media types is: if I (and others in comments) saw him with an icebag on his wrist via television on Monday, why on earth were all of you acting like he had a bum knee until D. Sutter spilled the beans on the PPV? Hopefully he's a go this evening, because even if his days as a front-end player are dwindling, he's still a very useful player to have around, and he's an obvious upgrade over any potential 12th forward.
A sprained wrist is also alleged to be keeping Adam Pardy on the shelf, with his participation this evening is still in doubt. He and Sarich are better than Johnson or Kronwall, period, and the day that one or both of them make a healthy return will be a good one. No matter who works at the bottom end of the D, the Flames need a lot better work than they're getting from Phaneuf. He had a difficult night on Friday, capping it with a disaster of a last shift in OT. I don't buy the Eklund rumours of an impending move to the tri-state area, though. I mean, Eklund, after all.
I didn't see a puff of white smoke from my southwest this morning, so I'll guess Kiprusoff starts. Another few nights like Friday might force B. Sutter to consider giving him a rest from the onslaught, but it isn't happening tonight.
The Avalanche survived an injury to Craig Anderson to keep pace with the Flames over the last couple of weeks. Peter Budaj managed to give the 'Lanche the same sort of performance in his stint, and Anderson returned Friday with a 2-1 SO win over the Lightning. He was very good against the Flames in the first two games, and was the primary reason Colorado won the first game.
The other players that have had their way with the Flames are Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski. Regardless of my feelings that the Avalanche's early season place in the standings have a strong whiff of good fortune about it, I'm the first to admit that those two guys are quality. Wolski made the Flames look silly on the game winner in October and Stastny had two helpers in the November win.
Keeping those two gents under wraps will likely be the key to a win. I'd say out-shooting Colorado would be a good plan, but that's done bugger-all for the Flames in the first two meetings, and so has getting a lead. With the way the Flames' offence has been going since late October, Kipper might have to pitch a shut-out, especially with a PP that's bringing back some unpleasant memories of last spring's ineptitude.
Game time is 6 MT, with coverage via Sportsnet West.