After a four day break following their victory over the Kings on Sunday evening, the Flames face the Florida Panthers tonight at the 'Dome (7:30 MT, Sportsnet Flames). The Panthers are 0-2 thus far, falling to Calgary's Northwest division foes in Edmonton and Vancouver in both contests.
After Adam Pardy suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday's game, Steve Staios will reportedly draw back into the lineup alongside T.J. Brodie, leaving many people perplexed about why he was chosen over the younger and more capable Cory Sarich. Unless Sarich is injured, this decision makes little sense; it seems highly unlikely that Sarich has somehow earned himself a spot in Coach Sutter's doghouse without having played a meaningful game since April. Sarich spent a good chunk of last season playing alongside Jay Bouwmeester prior to missing time with a foot injury and the subsequent arrival of Staios, and while the pair's results in terms of scoring chances for and against weren't much better than when Steady Steve hit the ice as Bouw's partner, Sarich's underlying results were, for the most part, better than Staios'. While I suppose we should be thankful that Staios will be kept far away from Bouwmeester in tonight's contest, I'm not sure I like the idea of giving him time to corrupt poor young T.J. on the third pairing much better.
Up front, Matt Stajan has been medically cleared to play and should return to the lineup tonight, with Morrison moving to the wing. Stajan's return certainly gives the Flames' second line more offensive punch after the injury to Rene Bourque and his presence should also give the team a boost in the faceoff circle, but the pressure is still on the first line of Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla to lead the way in scoring, as the trio has yet to record a point on twenty-two shots combined. They turned in a much better performance on Sunday against the Kings while playing against the likes of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, specifically Jarome Iginla, who finished the evening +1 in terms of Corsi, and hopefully that trend will continue tonight against the likes of Stephen Weiss.
The biggest challenge for the Flames in this game will undoubtably be goalie Thomas Vokoun, who has always seemed to have the Flames' number since his Nashville days, and a depleted lineup up front certainly won't make it any easier to get pucks past him.
Projected Lines and Pairings (as per NHLFlames):
The Flames haven't beaten the Panthers at home since early 2007, and tonight's game represents an opportunity to not only reverse their fortunes, but also to collect some all-important home-ice points before hitting the road for three games come Tuesday. Enjoy the game everyone and add any points of interest in the comments!