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Flames Game Day: Just a Little Rain Arena


Opposition: Five For Howling


With the way results have been for the Flames this month, it seems wholly appropriate for them to be in the desert, doesn't it? They haven't been on the good end of the score sheet in nearly three weeks, and last night's effort, which was mostly better for about 40 minutes, still left things in the same unsatisfying state as they've been since that night in Vancouver.

Tonight, they head into Glendale for a date with one of the conference's surprise packages. Unlike certain teams that we shall not name, the Coyotes have achieved their results by, wait for it, getting more shots than the other team. I know that's frowned upon in some locales, but it still seems like a good way to go about business. 


The Flames had one of those nights in Dallas where they suffered from a mix of poor fortune and flat-out bovine stupidity. It's hard to do much about the bounces that lead to the last two Star goals, but the Bourque play is pretty hard to explain beyond total brain freeze.

Speaking of matters ungulate, it's pretty clear what Brent Sutter's cowbell is. He took the opportunity provided by Craig Conroy's lower body ailment to reunite Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla, and in fairness, they weren't out-classed by Richards, Eriksson and Neal. As much as a few of us might hope for Iginla and Langkow to work together, it's clear now what we should expect for the remainder of the season. They'll be accompanied by Jamie Lundmark this evening, and the trio did perform well on the Flames' early PP chances, with two goals actually resulting. 

As mentioned, the penalty Rene Bourque received for not dropping the remnants was the result of an error one wouldn't expect from a Pee-Wee aged player. I'm certain he's suitably chastened. Dustin Boyd isn't looking out of place on the left side of that line, which really comes as no surprise to me. Nigel Dawes has been a nice waiver pickup from tonight's hosts, but I have a hard time believing that there's a significant talent gap between the two Winnipeggers.

Mikael Backlund, who was yesterday's pre-game focus of attention, acquitted himself in an acceptable manner during his 8-plus minutes against the Stars, and having just watched the Modano goal again, he wasn't really at fault beyond the loss of the faceoff. Backlund did get moved down to work with Prust and Sjostrom on occasion last night, but I'd suspect he'll at least start the night with Glencross and Nystrom in tow. Nystrom appears to be no worse for wear after getting the El Kabong with his own helmet during a tussle with Mark Fistric. Fistric has been fined $2,500 but will face no further discipline. 


Cory Sarich, as Kent mentioned in the post-game, drew the short straw, and there's no hint of injury to this point. He will go tonight from all reports, and we're at the point where if he's healthy and he isn't playing at least 15-18 minutes a night, he needs to be gone. That statement isn't driven by any sort of ill feelings towards him as much as it's a simple reflection of salary cap reality. You can't pay a guy 3.6 million to do nothing but wear a nice suit.  


Boomer Molberg just hinted on-air that the goalies are expected to be Kiprusoff and Bryzgalov, and if the Flames can actually win tonight, McE might get a go against the Oil Saturday. If the Flames lose, Kipper may go until the Olympics. That's not optimal, but Curtis McElhinney hasn't given anyone reason to believe in him.


The Coyotes are in a pretty plum spot for a team that was, off-ice imbroglio aside, not expected to do anything but make up the numbers this season. They come off an inspired 5-4 OT victory in Detroit Tuesday, scoring twice in the final 90 seconds of regulation before closing the deal via Shane Doan's winner. That sort of offensive outburst really isn't what the 'Yotes are about, of course. The root of their success is in suppressing offence from the other team, using Martin Hanzal as the main shut down forward, Zbynek Michalek at the back, and Ilya Bryzgalov in net. The Coyotes have been consistently organized on-ice this year, and that is the one place where upgrading behind the bench can help a team. I'm still wary of giving too much credit to a coach, because ultimately players drive results, but I do know that Dave Tippett is an upgrade over the previous occupant of that position.


Given the preferred approach of the two clubs, the reasonable thing to expect would be a low scoring, low event affair. The last game the teams played in Phoenix was the sort of one-shot game Phoenix lives for, so if the Flames have designs on ending this drought, they do need to get in front and then keep pushing. They panicked a bit last night as the game wore on, and it resulted in a point squandered. The other thing that needs to be corrected, somehow, is the Flames' consistent habit of not getting shots through to the net. They attempted 70 shots in all situations last night, with only 26 SOG. Seems like a hell of a waste, at least to me.


Game time is 7 MT on PPV.