Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red WIngs
Joe Louis Arena
5 PM MT
Opposition: Winging It In Motown
TV: Sportsnet West
It's been a long time since I watched a Flames-Wings game with any great confidence, particularly at the Joe. The games in Detroit all seemed the same for a long while, with the Wings jumping on Calgary, dominating at EV, getting a few power plays more than they likely deserved, and turning the game into a cluster for the Flames. In all honesty, the last time I felt like Detroit had no chance in a game in any location against Calgary was game 6 in '04, because Kiprusoff was in their heads so badly that they could have played for a week and not scored. Since then, Detroit's been clearly better, and the Flames have looked second best in Motown by a large margin.
Last year, the games in Detroit didn't seem to play out in quite the same fashion. The first game saw the Flames, with McE in net, jump out to a 3-1 lead before it slid away, losing 4-3 in OT. It still wasn't the one-sided sort of game that we'd all seen before at Joe Louis. The second encounter was even stranger, with the Flames going down 4-1, reeling the Wings in with as good a period as they likely played all year, and winning the shoot-out via a Joker snipe.
This year, the gap between the teams doesn't seem very wide at all, at least superficially. Calgary has the better record, and the first game they played seemed more like a lackluster Flames effort than a Detroit wipe out. Tonight, they meet in Detroit for the first time this season, and the Wings, although dangerous, are diminished by injury and defection.
That stipulated, if the Flames want a victory at JLA this evening, a good effort from the Captain would be very valuable, and a nice change as well. One thing that the Red Wings have managed over the last several years is to keep Jarome Iginla in complete check. No goals in almost 6 years against a team that the Flames have played 4 times a season? Preposterous but true. Iginla has been in good shooting form this month, although his game, and that of his center wasn't quite up to snuff on Wednesday versus the Coyotes. The Flames weren't as doctrinaire in the P v P matchup last game, and against the Wings in Calgary attempted to get Iginla out against the Zetterberg group. No bargain, but still easier than Datsyuk-Holmstrom, it appeared. Rene Bourque has made the trip, and although he won't go tonight, at some point I wouldn't mind Lawrence's request of a 17-21-12 line to get a spin once he suits up. If the Flames want to go P v P, he and Iginla are the two best wingers on the club. Whether Jokinen belongs on that sort of line is a matter that a careful person may have noticed us debating on occasion in these parts, but the fact that the Flames have trotted out Nystrom, Sjostrom and Lundmark on that line as often as anyone else really isn't fair to the big two. Having a career fourth-liner or an AHL regular as the nominal left winger of your alleged first group seems demented, frankly.
The Langkow line, with Moss in Bourque's spot, seemed just fine against Phoenix. The game winner was a nifty bit of business, with Moss making an excellent short-side feed to Dawes. Langkow was good again, and jumped on good work from Glencross and Nystrom to pot the opener. When Bourque comes back, I think these three might be able to make a go of it, leaving 17 to help elsewhere.
That Glencross play sums up his work since the third period in L.A. Quality stuff, and the sort of thing we'd become accustomed to. I don't know if he's really a player to fit in on the Iginla line, but if nothing else he's a going concern when he can play against middling comp.
The other player that might come into play for expanded work is Dustin Boyd. He got a few shifts with the big two, and looked effective doing so. Or at least, more effective than Lundmark. With Bourque still out, The Flames will likely have to plug in 16 at some juncture this evening.
The D still is without Sarich, and the piece I linked up top suggests that his malady (facial injury of some sort) isn't just a flesh wound. That means Bouwmeester will have Giordano alongside again, with a Johnson-Pardy third group. That just sounds, uh, wrong, on so many levels. Anyhoo...
Kipper goes tonight, but it does sound as if McE will get a turn in Columbus, and in all honesty, that makes sense, not only because of the B2B, but the Flames are in Nashville on Monday, and with the Preds playing very well that won't be any bargain.
The opposition are in a rare spot of disarray, but that was about as true on Halloween, and the Flames did nothing. Since then, Kronwall has been sidelined by a Georges Laraque knee, so one would think it was defence that would be the biggest issue for the Winged Wheel. That it hasn't might show the potential weakness that this team may finally be exhibiting up front, but in all honesty, they're still generating a ton of shots, so there might just be a bit of bad luck happening right now.
In other news, Todd Bertuzzi has been facing some scrutiny for his play.
What, you expect a comment for that? Like I need to expand upon it for Flames' fans? Right.
Moving on, it looks like the Flames will see Chris Osgood again, and given that he looks like crap against most other teams, a return to that level of performance would be nice, because Calgary made him look decent a month ago. Kinda like they did with Giguere on Monday, come to think of it.
It would be nice to see the Flames step on a team for once, but Detroit, even a weakened version, is still a tough out at home. Controlling Datsyuk and getting the PP in order will likely be keys, because the Wings PK hasn't been any hell.
Game time is 5 MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West.