6 PM MT
Opposition: Nucks Misconduct
TV: Sportsnet West
So I was reading the news this morning, and apparently the absence of creativity that the Flames display on offence has been noticed by the boss. That's nice. I was hoping that the Flames' stylistic resemblance to table hockey figures when they have the puck might catch someone's eye before the end of the season. I'm still of the opinion that Calgary needs at least one more forward, but I suppose I can acknowledge that the team recognizes a flaw in their approach and welcome that insight.
Of course, a proper diagnosis needs to be followed by the correct application of treatment, and Craig Conroy playing with Jokinen and Iginla bears the whiff of faith-healer stuff. I still like Craig Conroy a lot as a player, and a team with him in the bottom six is likely solid enough. Putting him on a line that has to score feels like the sort of move a coach running out of ideas might make, and that's not exactly what you'd want 36 games in. The big two were OK against St. Louis, but Vancouver presents a different sort of challenge unless Sutter chooses to keep them away from the Sedins.
The rest of the forwards are slumping a bit as well, with the shooting percentages of October a memory. The fact that Iginla references that period in the Sportak piece as a valid reflection of the team's potential is what he has to say publicly, of course. I hope the people making the decisions don't really believe it. I don't doubt that Glencross and Moss are due for a bit of a breakout, and the Langkow line was a bit better on Wednesday, so there's some chance of a few more goals. Those streaks won't solve the long term issues, of course, and the PP's sporadic contributions have simply added to the shortfall.
The bottom pairing on defence is a bit unsettled as of this time, with Johnson battling the flu and Pardy still struggling with a bad wrist. Cory Sarich came up in the papers in the last couple of days with reports that he's still nowhere to be seen, although Rob Kerr advises that he was out before the regular skate this morning . Having a guy on his ticket not playing or being traded is dead weight for a cap team, and the Flames aren't at the point where they want to LTIR him, which freezes things even more. As for the healthy people, Dion Phaneuf had some life against the Blues, and this team needs every bit of help from the skill defencemen it can get, so more, please.
The game against St. Louis would appear from the outside as a standard Kipper game, and he was good enough to deserve better, but he didn't look quite as comfortable catching the puck as we've seen for most of the year. He'll need a good one tonight, I'd guess.
The Canucks won 6 of 8 on their recent homestand, with a 4-1 win over the struggling Oilers last night. The Sedins are in a purple patch at the moment, with Hank tied for second in league scoring. The interesting thing to me is that unlike recent seasons where they did a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of matchups, the twins are well down the QComp among Canuck forwards, with Kesler and Raymond facing the bigs and doing so in poorer starting position. Kesler might end up working against Iginla's line if this trend holds, with the usual dose of Willie Mitchell added in. Roberto Luongo has been able to right the ship, moving to 8th in SV% amongst goalies with 20 games or more played, and B2B or no, I'd be shocked if he didn't go tonight.
These two teams are in different states than in the Flames' halcyon days of October, so those results aren't really indicative of what we might see tonight. The Canucks have a PP that's working well, and that suggests an evening free of visits to the box is in order. Vancouver isn't the deepest team scoring-wise, leaving a game where EV play rules as the sort the Flames likely need in order to prosper.
Game time is 6 MT on Sportsnet West.