Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Sporting a four-game slide of their own, the Avalanche-esque Minnesota Wild are no longer in first place in the NHL. What a crying shame.
Last time the Flames faced their division rivals south of the border, the good guys came away with an impressive 5-2 victory entirely on merit. Although they weren't the most disciplined squad, they outshot the Wild 35-21, chasing the erstwhile spectacular Niklas Backstrom in a game where all but four Calgary skaters finished in the black Corsi-wise.
This time around, the Flames seem to have their visitors exactly where they want them: missing the likes of Guillaume Latendresse, Devin Setoguchi, and possibly Mikko Koivu and coming off a 4-0 spanking last night against Vancouver. But the threat of Backstrom's otherworldly EV SV% still looms, and Calgary is icing two rookies without Matt Stajan (ankle) and Rene Bourque (suspension), who has 17 points in 25 career games against Minnesota.
Projected lineups after the jump (flames.nhl.com).
Ortmeyer-Peters (remember him?!)-Palmer
With the exception of Backstrom and maybe 2/3 of Minnesota's top line without Koivu, that's a pretty non-threatening Wild lineup. There has been a slight shakeup imposed on the Flames' lines after the team was mostly unproductive in Chicago, with Alex Tanguay and Mikael Backlund moving back to the first line and Olli Jokinen shifting back down to his rightful place on the second alongside Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross, despite his continuing "hot streak." Jarome Iginla still needs four goals to reach 500 and his chances of getting closer to that mark are likely increased with Tanguay on his wing. Morrison takes Stajan's place on the fourth line while Byron and Horak will skate with Comeau on the third; it will be interesting to see how Comeau fares without Backlund and/or Stempniak.
The Flames will have to be more disciplined than they were against the Blackhawks if they hope to find a way to snap their streak in this one, and they'll have to make the most of any powerplay opportunities they may get, as Backstrom boasts just an .868 SV% on the PK.