Sommet (?) Center
6:00 PM MT
Opposition: On the Forecheck
TV: Sportsnet West
The Flames Across America tour hits the Music City this evening, with 4 points in hand after a successful start in the Rust Belt. I'm fairly comfortable with the result in Columbus, because the Flames, second period lapse acknowledged, were the better team most of the night. The quality of play might need a boost this evening, because the opposition is rolling, and pretty stingy with the goals and the shots.
Olli Jokinen, as I remarked in comments on Saturday, looks like he might be hitting a little streak. It isn't just the goals, but the little plays he needs to make in possession are a bit better as well. He still looks like he's stick-handling a grenade at times, particularly when he's not in open ice, but it's better. I have no idea whether it will last, and that likely puts me in league with every coach he's ever had, so I'll simply enjoy it until otherwise. The only question one might ask about the Jokinen-Iginla line is why Boyd isn't a semi-permanent member, but it appears Sutter saves that move until he goes to three lines for the night. I suppose the argument that they might not need to shorten the bench if they went that route from the get-go hasn't won out yet. When Bourque returns, Boyd will properly head down the depth chart, but he shouldn't be a fourth liner until then.
Langkow-Dawes-Moss managed a goal, and although Kent isn't quite there yet with David Moss, there looks to be enough to my eye that they could let him be for a while, and not just throw Bourque back in that mix without consideration. That seems like a potential course of action if the Flames don't want to commit to Dustin Boyd in the top six quite yet. Bourque will get one more evening in the pressbox, by the sounds of it. As noted in that link, everything stays as is for the Flames up front.
Staffan Kronwall has rejoined the blue, but he sits as well, with Aaron Johnson getting another outing. Cory Sarich takes some heat around here, but he's better than either of those two gents, and I hope when we see him in the next week or so he's actually healthy.
After watching the understudy for a night, Miikka Kiprusoff rejoins the fray. He had the sort of night against Detroit that does bring back memories of a happier time in his career. Another 70 or so games like it this year would be just fine ;-)
The Preds have dug themselves out of a nasty hole, mostly caused by the fact that they couldn't create much offence to start the year. They aren't an offensive juggernaut these days, but a few guys, like Legwand and Ward, have extracted themselves from terrible slumps. They have begun to out-shoot the opposition as well, and that's a bit of a change from the teams that finished with over 100 points in 05/06 and 06/07, because those teams were usually a few shots a game in the ditch by year's end. Pekka Rinne gets the nod, and Dion Phaneuf gets re-acquainted with a defenceman from his draft class who has superseded him, IMO.
Nashville is playing very well at this point, and have a few notable home ice scalps in their nine wins at Sort-of-Unnamed Arena, including the Sharks, Devils and Wings. Columbus and Detroit would have seemed more difficult wins in this three game stretch, but I'd guess this will be a game that the Flames will need to play well in to have a chance. Not just 40-45 minutes, either.
Game time is 6 MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West.