I don't mean to diminish anything that the Coyotes did Thursday. They have a plan in place, and they've executed it both nights they met the Flames, as well as most other games they've played on the season. Each team got an extra bounce in their respective win, and that's about all the difference there was. All that accepted, there's a talent difference between Phoenix and the Sharks, so if the Flames struggle this evening, a hiding like they took last November might be in the offing.
Preventing that sort of occurrence likely requires a more fluid effort from Bourque-Jokinen-Iginla. Rene Bourque was rusty, to be blunt, and Sutter noted that he faltered away from the puck and in his own end more often than when on the attack. It looks like McLellan likes to run P v P, so a night head to head against Thornton et al requires a much improved night of work from that line, or Sutter will have to run a different match-up.
I didn't really think Nigel Dawes was at his best Thursday. He seemed a bit rushed with the puck, to my eye, and made a couple of errors along the boards that lead to extending some Coyote pressure. He, Langkow and Moss might well get some mix of Pavelski, Clowe and Setoguchi, which would be a pretty solid confrontation in it's own right. I think the lines as a whole are likely to stay as is, but I suppose that doesn't exclude a McG outing.
The defense is intact as well, with Sarich still down. A shame, really, although Patrick Marleau might not share that outlook:
Mark Giordano was on the end of some unwelcome scrutiny for his mis-play on Pyatt's winner Thursday, and to be honest, even if there were other things involved in the build-up to the play, he was a bit careless, at the expense of a point. I don't think that will affect the pairings tonight, but sometimes lost in the rush to run Cory Sarich and his salary slot out of town, it's wise to remember that Gio's not quite the finished article. I'm a fan of long standing, but I still like him a lot better as a third paring guy that dominates, at least for this year.
Kipper will go again, and why not? He's been good. If he has any extended run of really poor play, I'm almost at the point where I'd be mildly surprised. That's not saying there won't be the odd bad goal, of course, but I'm not expecting him to let in a stinker every night, and by the end of last year, that was the norm.
The Sharks had a surprising breakdown against the Blues last time out, giving up a late SH goal to Carlo Colaiacavo before losing via the skills competition. Evgeni Nabokov fingered Marc-Edouard Vlasic for not blocking the attempt at goal, before walking back those comments the next morning. I guess it's just how things go, but unlike the Gio play, it wasn't the coach grousing. I don't know, Vlasic's a damn good defenceman who plays the toughs every night, and watching that last sequence, there was plenty of blame to go around for the cluster that occurred in the last minute:
As for tonight, the Thornton line will be the obvious center of attention for the Flames, and with Sarich out, I'd expect the Regehr-Phaneuf duo to get first crack, with Bouwmeester involved as well. The two teams have both been good 5 v 5, but the Sharks have excellent special teams, and the Flames' PP goes through stretches where it seems a bit bereft of ideas. If Thursday proved anything at all, it's that the Flames don't have a great margin for error, and they won't out-talent San Jose by any means, so a tidy effort is paramount.
Game time is 8 MT, with coverage on the CBC.