Sitting in the back of a carMusic so loud I can't tell a thingThinking 'bout what to sayAnd I can't find the linesBig Star - Back of a Car
The Flames return to their uncomfortable home this evening, still trying to unlock the mysteries of a desultory home record, still trying to fix the apparently unfixable, still too close to nowhere. The win over the Avalanche was certainly nice enough, in that losing the first four games of the season series to Colorado has been one the causes for the standings ditch the club is lying in at the moment, but it's no end. The disappointments of earlier this week still have matters on a very fine edge, with any future loss another merciless shovelful on the grave.
Tonight, the Flames meet a club that sent them to the signature loss of their year, a night where the phrase "one-way traffic" wasn't a strong enough descriptive for the display on ice. Calgary will face the visitors from the Bay absent yet another useful player as well, negating some of the advantages of the depth added since January. Desperate times, indeed.
All that noted, the gents that are at the heart of the club still remain in place, and it's those men that will be tested this evening by one the league's better top-ends. Rene Bourque himself noted the lackluster play that preceded Wednesday's outburst on his part. That sort of output is certainly on the wishlist for this evening, with Thornton et al staring them down. Iginla and Stajan have found wanting against better players on too many nights, so if a win is in the cards that trend needs a night off.
With the challenges that the first unit faces, Daymond Langkow's line needs to find a way to be productive. It's pretty clear that Christopher Higgins just seemed to fit the needs of that line better then Niklas Hagman. The Finn has enough pedigree that one would hope that he's just in a low spot for the moment, but he hasn't appeared comfortable any place in the top six since arriving from Toronto, and with his skill level, that can't stand.
The Dawes-Conroy-Moss line seems to be the one set thats been on song the last few games, and Dawes' own play just reinforces my feelings that he should have been playing from the get-go after the Olympics. Leaving him in a suit while inferior players were iced, well, I talked enough about Brent Sutter Wednesday, didn't I? Just add it to the list, I suppose.
As one would have suspected with Curtis Glencross on the limp, Mikael Backlund returns to the lineup. Wise, too. Brain McGrattan's skill set isn't really required at the moment, so the actual hockey player it is. The Swede will apparently slide right into the fourth line spot vacated by number 20, and if he gets a bit of second unit PP time, I'd be unsurprised.
The D stays as is, despite the obvious impostor in the top four. I can't really add to Kent's dissection of the Steady One, except to agree that he's over his head. Not his fault, of course. The brother act in charge gets full, er, credit, for the why and how of it all.
Kipper needs to be as successful as Vesa Toskala has been of late for the Flames to win this evening...
and of all the things I never, ever, ever, considered I'd have to type in any serious way, that's right up there with, "I love salad", "Antiquing is totally underrated as a pass time", and , "Sure, I'll go see Loverboy. They're friggin' awesome." Uh, anyway, go get 'em, 34.
The Sharks lost to the Canucks last night 3-2, so hopefully they're a bit short on legs this evening. Beyond the clear danger that the first line poses, Joe Pavelski has to accounted for when considering match-ups. He torched the Flames in the January debacle, ringing up a goal and three assists, and he was 1 and 1 last night in last night's loss at the Garage. One spot that the Flames should, at least in theory, try to exploit is the older Shark D on night two of a B2B. Wallin, Blake and Boyle aren't kids, which might mean tired legs if the Flames can get any forecheck pressure going. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a fairly useful guy in a shut-down role, and he's close to a return, so for the short-term hopes of Calgary, one hopes he takes another evening to heal. As well, the Shark bottom six never really seems like much, and they rarely have to be, but is another spot that Calgary has to try to work on. Evgeni Nabokov played last night, so maybe Thomas Greiss gets an outing, but the Sharks have Phoenix in surprising proximity at the top of the Pacific standings, which could affect Todd McLellan's goalie decision.
Game wise, as I mentioned, the Flames have to try to win this one against the lower orders of the Shark line-up, because the top-six battle seems an unlikely place for success. I did note, even from a distance in Austin, that the Flames managed a goal with an extra man. Speaking of things I never thought I'd be typing...anyway, more, please.
Finally, an indulgent word if I might. Anyone reading this blog is doing better than the excellent gentleman who penned the lyrics I quoted to start today's piece, and frankly, it's been a bit dusty in here as I've been listening to a lot of Big Star this morning. I had every intention of seeing his planned show on Saturday as a worthy end to my visit to SXSW this year, part of a long held wish to attend a show by someone that was the influence for so much of the music I listen to. If you younger types are unfamiliar and you enjoy melodic power pop, well, the internet is a wonderful place for more than just reading this stuff. Rest in peace, Alex.
The Flames are still with us, if barely, so they're doing better as well, and that's no little thing. Game time is 7 MT on Sportsnet West.