Tonight also brings an awaited moment in terms of personnel movement, with Rene Bourque hale enough to take a spot alongside Jokinen and Iginla. If you want to go P v P, that's a pretty good left winger for that line, I'd say. His new line mates have also already been a little better in their own end lately, so in the spirit of the impending season, I'm perfectly willing to give these guys a chance to gel over the next several games. Jokinen and Iginla have never really had any stability at the LW spot, and Bourque is the best winger on the team, so this is a move that might finally solidify the team's top group.
Calgary can go this route because David Moss has dropped into Bourque's old spot with sufficient aplomb that the results haven't suffered in any appreciable way. Moss looked very good in Nashville, and with Dawes rolling, The Flames could very well have two lines capable of working at a high level. It's a nice problem if it happens.
I see Kent has changed the sig line of the blog, so it behooves me to note that Curtis Glencross has been excellent of late, going +4 with 5 points in his last five outings. He and Langkow have been very dangerous on the PK during the last several games as well. Nystrom, Boyd and Conroy have all moved in and out of the third group when the Flames have a full compliment of forwards, with no ill effect, and having 10 guys for 9 spots hardly seems a bad scenario. Depth=good team, I reckon.
Cory Sarich remains out, so the defence pairings of the last week hold. Kent and I both noticed that John Down of the Herald was asking in their chat yesterday if this will be Sarich's last year as a Flame. I think that may be so. His salary slot might look pretty good on Rene Bourque, and if the Flames have depth at any position in the organization, it's defence for sure. Summer is a long way off, though, and at some point, I'd like to see him playing healthy, just to make sure that it wasn't just a bad wheel holding him back.
Miikka Kiprusoff goes again tonight, and well he should. There's still a bit of wait and see with 34, but his 5 v 5 SV% is as good as it gets, and he'd have to fall a ways to get down to last year's levels. I don't absolutely know how his numbers will finish, but as someone on the record with the prediction that a .910 overall SV% from Kipper would be good enough for the Flames to win the division, I'm liking the first two months quite a lot.
The Coyotes have won their last two tilts since they were dropped by the Flames last Wednesday, and the ongoing good goaltending is again at the heart of the matter. Ilya Bryzgalov has held the last three Yote opponents to two goals, and the last two games have seen some pucks go in for Phoenix, including goals by old Flames Lombardi and Vandermeer (?!?!?!) Sunday night in Anaheim. Ed Jovanovski is iffy, after sitting out the Duck game, although he's making noises about being better.
I don't expect this game to be much different than the low event encounter we saw eight days ago. That's the Coyote way this year, and it fits Calgary's M.O. most nights as well. The Coyotes are decent enough in Phoenix, and unless you've been hiding out, the Flames' road numbers are pretty well known, so it should be a solid match-up.
Game time is 7:30 MT, and for Shaw PPV viewers at least, tonight's deal, as I understand it, is that you can buy the Canuck game at 5 MT vs. Philly and be good for the night. As an aside, Sportsnet is carrying the NFL game from Rogers Centre this evening, pushing the Flames to PPV and the Oiler-Wing game to CITY TV in E-town. From what I read, the Flames and Oilers draw audiences of between 200-250 K for their broadcasts. I'm no NFL hater, but I wonder if the NFL game would get anywhere near that number in the teams' TV footprint, even without competition from hockey? This might be some sort of a deal in Toronto, but the location of a crap game doesn't have any impact on my viewing, so I'm thinking that this might end up looking like a poor choice. My two cents, anyway.