7:30 PM MT
Opposition: Battle of California
There has to be a point where even the most mulish type has to accept reality, right? Where the evidence reaches a level that can't be ignored? Where the willingness to deny what everyone else is seeing just can't be sustained?
Apparently, for Brent Sutter, that time isn't quite here yet, at least when considering the effectiveness of his two highest paid forwards. Tonight, the Flames will take on the Kings with an unchanged approach, hoping for different results.
I don't know how long the Flames can carry on with a first group that does so poorly in terms of creating chances, but from the sounds of it, there are no new ideas. Eric Nystrom will work with Jokinen and Iginla, in the belief that making the same mistake repeatedly will wear down the opposition, I suppose. As Kent showed earlier today, not much good is going on for the big two at the moment, and the only answer I can come up with is that the team thinks that Jarome Iginla's hot-shooting November is reality, and everything else is noise. I had a look at the numbers with about 5 minutes left on Tuesday, and I noticed that the trio had managed one shot on goal at EV to that juncture. One. Since I didn't notice that they were facing the '77 Habs at the time, I hope you'll understand why that might strike me as substandard. I don't know what the level of play would have to look like for a change to be made, so I'll presume that it simply doesn't exist absent other evidence.
That leaves the others to pick up the slack, with the Bourque-Langkow-Dawes trio reunited. That's good, I guess, but they can't reasonably be expected to carry this team for an extended period. That does appear to be their lot, however, and at least they look the part more nights than not. I'd still prefer that two of those gents were working with the captain, but as I've mentioned, that's fantasy stuff.
Further down the roster, the normally excellent Glencross, Conroy and Moss had a stinker by their standards in St. Loo, and again, if a team's depth is expected to carry it, that can't happen too often. I wonder how healthy Conroy's wrist is, because there have been a few occasions in the last couple of games where he didn't take a faceoff. As for the fourth line, it seems that Brent Sutter decided to channel Bruce Boudreau's "what good is he" moment by asking McG to watch this evening's encounter from the press box, rather than the bench. There's better popcorn up there, I'm certain. Dustin Boyd resumes his now-regular role of fourth liner, until the Flames need a goal, at which point he becomes the 1LW. It just seems wrong.
On the back end, one of the wounded could return, as Adam Pardy is supposedly now a solid maybe for the evening, in lieu of Kronwall. He won't hurt, and the trust level the team has in him will permit the Flames to spread some of the workload around. Playing the top 4 as much as the Flames have this week isn't a good plan in the long-term.
Kipper will go, and on that note, since I completely forgot this last night, here are his 5 v 5 numbers for the week:
Atlanta 1-19, Minnesota 1-32, Colorado 2-17, season 38-637, 940 SV%.
He's about all that's keeping the Flames from mediocrity, and he earned them a point that had nothing to do with the play of the skaters versus the Wild.
The Kings are rolling right now, going 8-1-1 in the last ten, and sit in a spot they haven't seen in a fair piece. They've managed all this with significant injuries, with the list including Stoll, Jones, Johnson, Simmonds and Smyth. We've seen the Kings a couple of times in recent days, so I don't think there are too many mysteries. They can score a bit, they do a good job of keeping the 5 v 5 shots down, and Jonathan Quick has given them just enough to get the Kings into first in their division. They still struggle on special teams, but lord knows the Flames don't scare anyone in that part of the game, either, so it might not hurt them.
Tonight, given how banged up L.A. is, the Flames should be able to get this. As I've said, I despair of the long term prospects for Iggy and Joker, but if they want to prove me and a few others wrong, the Kings might be ripe. Whether the Flames get the offence going or not, the shots have to come down, because 30-40 a night won't do at all.
Game time is 7:30 on TSN.