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Flames Game Day: Training camp redux?

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Pengrowth Saddledome

7:30 PM MT

Opposition: The Cannon

TV: Sportsnet West (HD)


With the Flames in the midst of an extended period in Calgary, punctuated by rare outbursts of hockey, it's a fairly quiet time around the team. The Flames have been off since Friday, when the juggled lines produced a win, once again led by the bottom of the roster, and one that looked fairly dominant until the last 5 minutes or so. The Canucks almost looked disinterested for much of the night, which struck me as odd, but welcome. Tonight's opposition, driven by a demanding coach, doesn't normally put forth that sort of effort. 

The Flames have made plenty of noise about adjusting to "the system", so in theory, this unusual home stand should be a welcome opportunity to hone things. In theory. Mike Rogers shot that idea in the head Friday afternoon, and the premise that Calgary's best players weren't showing up away from the puck because of systemic nuance is pretty much as he's called it, an excuse. Friday did show some signs of improvement, however, so I'll grant the possibility that his (and my) cynicism might be a bit premature.

 

The lines from Friday appear to be a go again, with Moss still sidelined, so Glencross-Conroy-Iginla get another outing. None of the lines were awful, and these three weren't either, but Iginla still looked off, with only two EV scoring chances when he was on-ice. That's two fewer than Brian McGrattan, in about 2.5 times the ice time. He's also still on the wrong side of  possession more often than not, so whether having a center with a passing familiarity of his own end will give him a boost continues to be open to question. 

 

Dawes-Langkow-Bourque ended up on the good side at EV +/- and scoring chances, if not Corsi. The trio has also done some nice work on the PP, and if it lasts it's a positive sign in the long term for the team. It means that there are options beside Jokinen-Iginla, and the opposition can't sleep on the second unit. They had two terrible EV games last week, so the numbers will look bad for a while, but efforts like Friday will fix that. If Daymond Langkow and Rene Bourque stay in the red at EV, I might have to change my worldview, but I doubt they will, or I'll have to.

 

Olli Jokinen was on the ice for zero chances for at EV. Zero. I'd certainly never submit that the 'Stroms are the kind of players guaranteed to lift a slumping scorer out of the ditch, but zero? In fairness, they didn't get scored on, so I'm sure this is simply part of a plan to turn Olli into a low event bottom sixer. Er...

 

The "fourth" line kicked the crap out of Vancouver. Dustin Boyd was terrific, driving things the right way all night and getting a well-deserved goal for his efforts. McGrattan and Prust did their thing, and played decent hockey as well, which is always going to be a bonus, particularly from McG. They'll get another chance to work together tonight with the status quo forward groups. If Dustin Boyd wants a chance to be more than a peripheral player in the organization, more nights like Friday will likely grant him opportunities. 

 

The defence might get an adjustment tonight, but Regher-Phaneuf will carry on. Fluffy news articles aside, the duo is still in the red while playing second-level comp, although Regher looked much better against the Canucks. They have a ways to go before they're the reliable first pair that the team seems to want them to be.

 

Bouwmeester and Sarich got the tough stuff Friday, and have the Corsi/scoring chance numbers to show for it. As I said Friday, I don't hate the idea of them working together, so I'll call the pair a work in progress. They might see some of Nash and Huselius tonight, which would be a worthy challenge. 

 

Aaron Johnson should get an outing with Mark Giordano on the third pair. As Kent noted last night, Pardy has been acceptable in his role so far, so this really isn't about him. Johnson is a strange case. He rode some favourable match-ups and a lethal Blackhawks' start last year to a ridiculous +19 in about half a season, got hurt, and then fell off the face off the earth. That +/- is still good, regardless of circumstance, so tonight marks our first chance to see how he does on a team that isn't quite as good at that EV out-shooting business.

 

Kiprusoff goes tonight, and I don't expect a McElhinney sighting until early November. Kiprusoff was pretty good against the Blue Jackets last time out, giving up two goals and likely being the only member of the team that looked worth a damn.

 

Columbus has gotten off to a good start, sporting a 5-1-0 record so far. Steve Mason has been excellent, with a .925 SV% so far, and Columbus is giving up almost as many shots per game as the Flames, so he hasn't been sipping daiquiris back there. When getting out-shot, your goalie can help you ride out a rough patch, and Mason's done just that. No sophomore jinx yet, by the looks of things.

 

The defence added short-term Flame Anton Stralman to the line-up last week, just in time to score a 5 v 3 goal against the Flames to jump-start their offence. In today's Columbus Dispatch, Stralman notes that he's still scrapping with U.S. authorities to get his family entry to the country. He also said he was sure he'd made the Flames' six regular defencemen coming out of camp before the trade occurred. Makes two of us, Anton. Jan Hejda is out for 4-6 weeks, which is a shame for him, and good for Calgary. That guy can play other team's good forwards to a standstill and then some. Through his first 5 games he played 17 minutes a night at EV, faced the second toughest comp amongst the D, and was 6 GF, 0 GA. that's 0, as in zero, as in Olli Jokinen's chances at EV Friday night zero. 

 

The forwards other than the Nash-Brassard-Huselius group are very low event, just as Hitchcock would like. No other forward has been on-ice for more than 3 goals for or against through the first six outings. I've heard of the "Nothing Line" but the nothing three lines? 

 

Tonight, as with last Tuesday, will likely be a test of who Sutter and Hitchcock want out there at certain times. Pahlsson went head to head with Iginla's line in Columbus, so I'll be interested to see if that match-up holds in Calgary against a juggled Flames' roster. If Jokinen stays with the 'Stroms, I'd guess Hitchcock may try to get Nash out there to face them. Not facing Hejda and Commodore on the Jacket D should give the Flames some opportunites, and Klesla and Tyutin have struggled so far on the back end, so they might be two to target. Let's see if the Flames can out-shoot someone for once.

 

Game time is 7:30 MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West.