The undermanned Dallas Stars (31-20-6) hobble into the 'Dome without leading scorer Brad Richards, looking to avoid a third straight loss at the hands of the Flames (29-22-8), who could catch the once elusive division leaders with a regulation win tonight.
The Western Conference standings really are ludicrous; nearly 3/4 of the way through the season, the Canucks are the only team that has managed to separate themselves from the pack, as even the Red Wings are within striking distance. Teams ranked four through seven are deadlocked at 68 points with roughly the same number of games played, and then there's Calgary, two points back at 66 and precariously holding down eighth place with the most games played of any team in the conference. I'm not sure anyone would have predicted that there would be this many teams in the race for a playoff spot with two months left in the season.
Anyway, tonight's game represents another opportunity for the Flames to up their chances of making the cut; there's always the possibility of a post-blowout let down, especially against a team like the Stars who have been a bit unpredictable this season, but have received consistently good goaltending from Kari Lehtonen. Thankfully for the Flames, both Olli Jokinen and Tim Jackman will play tonight despite leaving Monday's game with suspected leg injuries, and both will look to continue putting up points. Jackman will surely wish to exact revenge upon the Stars after having a goal called off in Monday's thrashing of the Avalanche.
Lance Bouma will be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game tonight, which I'm not a big fan of. If you're not going to play the kid, send him down to the minors where he can play some meaningful minutes. There's no sense in him wasting time and money sitting in the press box, but when has logic ever prevailed in these types of situations this season?
Miikka Kiprusoff will start again for the Flames tonight, his twelfth consecutive start between the Calgary pipes.
Enjoy the game everyone and hope for an Andrew Raycroft appearance in the comments. Go Flames.