With reports that NHL teams received their finalized schedules this morning, it appears that the league has once again changed the format, and teams will now only play division opponents four times each, as per Sam Carchidi:
NHL has changed sked format again. Teams will only play teams in same div. 4x. More details coming.
NHL has changed sked format again. Teams will only play teams in same div. 4x. More details coming.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 11, 2013
That would mean the Flames would play the Canucks, Oilers, Wild and Avalanche four times each (16 games) and 32 games against other Western Conference opponents. I think this set-up makes more sense than the "teams play some division opponents four times and some five times" format that first emerged a few days ago; the Flames may now see slightly more variety in their Western Conference opponents instead of playing the same teams three times each in a shortened season.
In other Flames news today, Roger Millions has been reporting on lines from 'unofficial' Flames practice, and broke the news that Sven Baertschi is in town seeing a doctor and practicing with the team:
Baertschi-Backlund-Glencross on a line this am
Baertschi-Backlund-Glencross on a line this am— Roger Millions (@RogMillions) January 11, 2013
I don't know about you guys but that sounds like a pretty slick line to me and I'd be really excited to see those three players skate together in game one. We all know Glencross can finish and I think Backlund, who is hopefully in line for a bit of a bounce-back season, would greatly benefit from playing with a skilled guy like Baertschi. Millions also said that Roman Cervenka has been cleared to skate by the Flames, but has not yet been cleared for contact. He has been skating on his own and will be seen by a doctor on Sunday, according to the team. When it comes to defence pairings, Millions reported that Chris Butler and Jay Bouwmeester skated together this morning, as did Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman, which leaves Cory Sarich/Anton Babchuk/Derek Smith/TJ Brodie as the third pairing/seventh D-man.
I discussed the Flames' excess defenceman problem in the summer and it will be interesting to see what they do about it now that the season is finally about to begin, because I think it would be a real shame for the Flames not to call up and use Brodie as a cheap and flexible option in the bottom-pairing/powerplay rotation who can easily be promoted in the case of an injury, which is bound to happen at some point. This is also the last year of Brodie's ELC, so his playing time in the NHL this season is crucial to determining his future with the Flames.