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Flames Game Day: Chimera, and I don't mean Jason.

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Pengrowth Saddledome

7:30 PM MT

Opposition: Battle of California
TV: Sportsnet West


The Flames resume their rush towards year's end this evening, starting a stretch of three in four nights at the Dome. If Monday's effort was nothing more than the resistible force overcoming the movable object, tonight's match-up should give us a better handle on whether the doldrums have been escaped. The opposition has had a poor week in it's own right, but the Kings are still a decent enough club that the result should permit a better assessment of Calgary's changes amongst the top six. The Oilers aren't exactly measuring-stick stuff these days, so a win where the Flames were second best for the first 40 minutes should be regarded in a cautious manner. 

 


 

The one meaningful result from Monday outside of the actual points gained was the fact that a win will allow the new lines to get another outing. Glencross-Langkow-Iginla didn't exactly light it up against Horcoff and two make-weights, and the captain looked a step off the pace. I'm inclined to give these three time to work things out, but it's possible that bursts of quality rather than sustained excellence is Iginla's new normal. That doesn't mean total disaster, by the way, but merely that the team will require more from others to be competitive. If the Flames run this line at Kopitar tonight, we'll get a good test of the potential they have to be a P v P group.

Production from elsewhere did happen in Edmonton, of course, via the stick of Rene Bourque. He, Jokinen and Dawes were pretty good, playing what passes for the OIlers' top group these days. As I stated above, that win bought another game for these two set-ups to get acclimated, and Olli Jokinen certainly looked a bit more comfortable. Unlike Brent Sutter, I've never cared if the two most expensive forwards played together, possibly because I wasn't convinced they were the two best forwards, or well-suited to each other, for that matter. 

The one spot where the shuffling seems to leave a thin spot is on the third line. Eric Nystrom can play in the NHL, but he's a 10th or 11th forward on a good team, and long stretches above that level expose him. I understand the trepidation in simply flipping him for Boyd, since it might render the fourth line unplayable, especially when McG dresses. I suppose if the first two lines get some traction long term we can talk about filling a third line spot via acquisition, but that's still a ways off.

 

After an extended absence, Cory Sarich made a return to practice on Tuesday. I don't know how his conditioning is after an extended time away, and a broken toe or foot would seem to be the sort of thing that would limit training options, so I'd be surprised if he played before next week barring catastrophe. The one other thing that has occurred in terms of deployment as of late is the move of Giordano to the 1st PP. In a way it does make sense, since it allows Bouwmeester-Regehr to run the tail end of the PP and then face the first shift after on occasion.  I'd rather not see 28 on the PP at all, of course, since it seems like a safety-first move, but Sutter needed a lot of evidence before he split Iggy-Joker, so baby steps, right? As an aside, I've seen the Olympic announcements, and from a selfish Calgary POV the positive is that the blue should be healthy for the stretch run.

 

Kipper saved the team's ass on Monday, period. Maybe McE gets a run tonight or tomorrow, but I'd be surprised if we see him before next week. And, since I'm not doing a round-up this week:

 

Kipper 5 v 5: 1-23 vs. St. Louis, 2-9 vs. Vancouver, 1-24 vs. Edmonton, season total 47-730, .936 SV%. Congrats on the Olympic nod, Miikka. You're full value.

 

The Kings have fallen in three straight, the latest a 4-3 home loss to Minnesota two nights ago. The return of Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds has been offset by the loss of Justin Williams. Anze Kopitar, an Art Ross contender through November, has fallen off the pace to the point that BoC's Rudy Kelly felt the need for some subtle messaging to rouse the Slovenian center. The Kings' best player might well be Drew Doughty, and he always looks a handful coming late to the play. His work has him heading to Vancouver this February in only his second season. Including him on the Olympic team might be a bit questionable, but if nothing else he's certainly having a better year than the guy they picked as captain.

 

Tonight, we'll see if the Flames' switch of the lines seemed acceptable merely because of the fragility of the Oilers. L.A.'s PK is not the best, so if the Flames could ever get the PP going regularly, that would be an area that might yield some results. Jonathan Quick still looks like a weak spot as well, nice win totals aside. 

 

Game time is 7:30 MT on Sportsnet West.