The Flames continue to search for answers after their fourth loss in five games, and although tonight may not be the ideal bounce-back game against a team that has had the Flames' number in recent years, the Blackhawks are also looking to get back in the win column after two consecutive shootout losses to Northwest division opponents.
The Flames managed to steal two games from the 'Hawks last season, both of which they actually won by more than one goal, so it's not totally improbable that things could go the Flames' way against a tired Chicago team, but I'm not exactly confident in the defence/Miikka Kiprusoff's ability to hold of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews after Thursday night's debacle.
The Hawks have been scoring at a rate of 3.12 goals per game and have allowed an average of just two in eight games through the first two weeks of the season, and their PK has been operating at an astounding 96.8% efficiency rate. The Flames' powerplay was absent against the Avs, but has otherwise been a strong point thus far, ranked seventh in the league through five games. Chicago has been one of the least penalized teams in the early goings, however, so the Flames will either have to work harder to draw penalties or make the Blackhawks pay at even strength--which is easier said than done. Chicago has allowed just 14 goals at EV through eight games, compared to the 13 allowed by the Flames in just five contests.
So yeah, the Blackhawks are good. If the Flames can keep up their trend of out-shooting and out-chancing their opposition that they've managed to sustain with relative consistency so far, they might have a chance in this one and should be able to keep it close at least, but they'll need to be a lot better in their own zone tonight in order to accomplish that (Kiprusoff included).
Game day links ahead!
Blackhawks blog Second City Hockey's preview of tonight's tilt [Second City Hockey]
Another preview from the Flames' side of things [Flames Nation]
Why sports matter (and it's not why you may think) [The Humming Giraffe]
If the Flames can't beat the Avalanche, at least their AHL affiliate can get the job done. The Abbotsford Heat beat the Lake Erie Monsters 4-1 last night. Flames prospect Paul Byron had a goal while Max Reinhart tallied two assists in the contest, and the team prepares to take on the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight [abbotsfordheat.com]
Habs fans are back on the Rene Bourque bandwagon as the former Flame scored two in today's 6-1 rout of the Buffalo Sabres. The forward was even trending on Twitter for a brief period this afternoon. Here's what people were saying:
Rene Bourque is a new man this year in Montreal— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 2, 2013
Bourque has three goals and five points in seven games thus far this season. Maybe this will serve as motivation for Mike Cammalleri to get his butt in gear tonight as he gets promoted to the top line with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.
See you all tonight!