With a badly needed win tucked away Friday, the Flames head out for a two game sojourn that starts in St. Paul this afternoon. I mentioned the other night that pretty much every game is a mandatory victory at this juncture, and today's meet-up with the Wild is no different. In fact, it's the type of game where they could do themselves a favour by separating from a team below them for once. As we all saw on Wednesday, the Wild do seem to have the ability to put Calgary into a deep slumber, and that type of half-game effort just won't do when you're not comfortably in the playoffs.
I won't go into too much detail today, because we just saw the Wild a few days ago, and it doesn't sound like the Flames will be adjusting any personnel after their win over the Devils. I didn't think much of the play of Stajan-Bourque-Iginla through the first two periods, and the goal that Stajan tallied in the third was a Bourque production, with the captain irrelevant. I've said this before, but even if you want to bend over backwards to give Jarome Iginla the benefit of the doubt, it would take a powerful pair of blinders to ignore his play when he's confronted with the other team's best. I'm at the point where I don't care who his line mates are, as long as he takes on the second string. That noted, a few goals always make coaches think that they've found the elixir, so I can't see them splitting until the team falls behind in a game by more than one.
So, Langkow should ride with Higgins and Kotalik again, and Mikael Backlund will have another outing with Hagman and David Moss. The bottom half of the Flames' roster was very solid against New Jersey, and although I've openly disagreed with the policy that leaves Dawes in the PB, Nystrom and Mayers have been OK. I'm still of the mind that this personnel deployment is an opportunity for exploiting mismatches gone wanting, though.
The defence will likely roll as is, but Steve Staios is very likely over his head against top-sixers. I don't see him being busted down until a bad loss, even with the somewhat shaky play that he and Bouwmeester exhibited on Friday. That does leave Sarich and Giordano a good chance to boss Minnesota's lower orders in the manner they managed Friday, which was a tidy affair on their part.
The Herald story I linked to suggested that Brent Sutter wasn't dropping any hints as to what he has in mind regarding his starting goalie. I don't really want to see Vesa Toskala play a meaningful game this spring, and he may not go today, but if he's going to get more than two games in, this might be a non-B2B spot for him, particularly with it being a matinee on a shortish turn-around and Detroit looming on Tuesday.
Minnesota's last outing ended in a loss via the skills competition Friday night versus the Oilers. The news from that encounter was the reckless knee hit Derek Boogaard unloaded on Ryan Jones. That bit of foul business will cost the Wild "enforcer" two games and a bunch of dough, and I can't help but feel he got off pretty lightly. I am somewhat conflicted about his absence, though, because he's a liability for the Wild when he's not attempting to damage someone.
Game wise, the Flames were a bit fortunate to get the Olympic version of Marty Brodeur the other night, so I wouldn't relish their chances if they fall behind in this one. One area not even worth thinking about anymore is special teams, since those sorts of events have apparently been prohibited by secret league protocol in Calgary games for the duration.
Puck drop goes shortly after 1 MT on Sportsnet West.