The Flames (0-2-1) take on the Edmonton Oilers (2-1-0) tonight in the first Battle of Alberta of this shortened season at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
48-hours after Nail Yakupov did his best Theo Fleury impression when he scored the tying goal to send the Oilers into overtime with less than five seconds to play against the defending Stanley Cup champs, Yakupov and his young cohort prepare to take on the Flames tonight in Calgary, possibly sans Sven Baertschi.
Baertschi practiced with the team on the fourth line yesterday, and was apparently the last Flames player to leave the ice, signaling that he may sit tonight against Edmonton. With Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka set to make their Flames debuts tonight, the merits of sitting Baertschi were debated last night on Twitter after the news broke.
The young forward has no points and is -1 in three games with the Flames so far, but few people could argue that he hasn't been creating chances in the offensive zone, even if he isn't getting a ton of shots. I wasn't particularly impressed with his game in Vancouver but I've seen far worse. Before this season, the 20-year-old only had five games of NHL experience (during which he raised the expectations of Flames fans by scoring three times). The Flames have played three games against fairly good opponents, and I think it's reasonable to expect that he's going to experience a few bumps along the way as he learns to adapt to the big league game, especially after spending most of the season with the Heat and coming to the Flames off an injury.
Sitting young players after what "unsatisfactory" performances to clear space for returning veterans (although I suppose Cervenka is technically a rookie) is a classic Flames move; sending Roman Horak down to the AHL last week achieved much the same purpose. It's not that I think Hudler and Cervenka shouldn't play, but sitting Baertschi just seems silly to me. Play him tonight and them send him down after the game if you have to. I think it's more important to give him a chance to play better and play according to Hartley's system than to attempt to motivate or send a message to him short-term by benching him.
Baertschi is still confident in his game, and has said himself that he thinks this game is an important opportunity for him to see how he fares against the likes of Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Yakupov, and I agree. I think many Flames fans would agree that playing on the fourth line isn't ideal for Baertschi, but at least for one game, it's better than nothing. Hopefully he gets to play.
Here are your links ahead of tonight's game:
Book of Loob cheers up Sven Baertschi [Flames Nation]
Looks like Steve Begin will also sit according to Randy Sportak:
Roman Cervenka adjusts to life in North America with the help of his translator, Jiri Hudler [Calgary Herald]
Why the NHL needs more Yakupov-esque celebrations and what it means for the Oilers [Puck Daddy]
Derek Zona previews tonight's Flames-Oilers tilt [The Copper & Blue]
Olli Jokinen led the way for the Flames against Edmonton last season, scoring two goals and five points, before Calgary dropped the final two games of the 2011-12 season series against their provincial rivals [flames.nhl.com]
Roman Horak and the Abbotsford Heat are in action this afternoon, looking to sweep the Charlotte Checkers after a 4-3 victory last night. The Heat have now won five games in a row ahead of the AHL All-Star break after struggling through December and early January [Heat Hub]
See you all tonight in the Game Thread!