The Flames left for the Southland with a sour taste lingering after the Hawks made them look foolish. The California trip was fine, really. 3 points in L.A. should never be looked at badly, and the Flames played well enough where the points seemed largely merited.
Iginla and Jokinen showed signs against the Ducks, with that third period vs. Getzlaf and Perry suggesting that the possibility exists that there's a chance they can manage when confronted with another team's top line. That shift in the first period that ended in two goals was pretty deadly, but let's cut the nonsense. Hamstringing them with Jamie Lundmark against anyone but 3rd and 4th liners isn't fair, full stop. I hope that the boss decides not to ride that set-up again, but this from Randy Sportak indicates otherwise.
It isn't all bad in that report, however. Sjostrom skated on the fourth line, with McG the odd man out, and the best news is the report of Bourque returning to practice. In his absence, Moss has filled in with Dawes and Langkow, and he's starting to resemble the player that was such a boon last year.
Dustin Boyd draws fourth line duties again, but I suspect if things on that first group start out a bit dodgy, he could be asked to fill the left wing spot again. He had a solid finish to that Anaheim game with Joker and Iggy, so let's hope that stays in Brent Sutter's memory bank.
The blue is unchanged, and I'd guess that Regehr-Phaneuf will keep getting the heavies until further notice. I can't imagine they'll change things, frankly. I think Phaneuf is punching above his weight at EV whether Regehr caddies for him or not, but the brain trust must not like the idea of pairing him with Sarich.
Kipper should go again, because the team faces a 3 in 4 night road stretch in Detroit, Columbus and Nashville starting Friday. McE might go in Columbus, and given the crapulence of the Blue Jackets' goaltending this year, that might be a good spot to get him a game.
The 'Yotes are more prone to be discussed for the shenanigans in the courts of Arizona, but the work that Dave Tippett and Don Maloney have done in getting that team to a competitive level shouldn't be overlooked. Phoenix made a decision to send Boedker, Turris and Tikhonov to San Antonio this fall while adding players like Lang, Fiddler and Vrbata in the process. It's hard to play good defence with a kid-laden team, so Maloney's moves to add a few vets has made Tippett's life a bit easier. Of course, there's at least some historical evidence that Tippett knows what he's doing, and you might not find similar evidence that suggests that sort of thing about the previous coach.
Phoenix has a few players we're familiar with, of course. Matthew Lombardi is a first line center in the Desert, and if he keeps playing well, he'll have a nice payday in July. It a chance that never seemed to happen in Calgary, although it should be noted that it's a lot easier to wait for a player when expectations are as suppressed as they are in Phoenix. The Flames did themselves a favour by off-loading Vandermeer, but he's been OK, and Adrian Aucoin has likely seemed like a bit of a bargain for the Coyotes. It may come across as unfair, but players do get judged by their salaries at times, and Shinpad at 4 million seemed just passable. At 2.25 million on a second pair? Hunky-dory. He actually played pretty well during his two years in Calgary, and the injury issues he went through in Chicago don't appear to be a factor any more.
That good health is rare by comparison for the 'Yotes on the back end. Ed Jovanovski, who's underlying numbers resemble an actual NHL defenceman this year, Zbynek Michalek and the under-appreciated Kurt Sauer are all out, although Jovo might be close to returning. Bryzgalov has had a good start, and Phoenix did an excellent job of limiting shots against until they started bleeding defencemen.
Phoenix might try to play it tight to start, and if the Flames can stay out of the box, this should be a game that that they can win. The Coyotes aren't a joke, though, and the Flames aren't exactly a juggernaut at home, so this isn't a throwaway.
Game time is 7:30 MT, with coverage on TSN. With a tight TV window for a double header looming, that likely guarantees that the Leafs-Bolts game will go 243 rounds in the shoot-out.