The Flames put forth the kind of effort last night in Nashville that everyone would hope for, no? They gave up 8 EV chances, which is a very good number for any team, against any sort of opposition. It would take some pretty poor goaltending to lose under those circumstances, and the Flames certainly aren't suffering from that problem.
Tonight, they meet a team that made them look a bit silly a month ago. The Wild out-shot Calgary 46-23, and if there was ever a "Kipper" point gained this year, that was it. There are a few factors at play this evening that might lead to different, and hopefully better, results.
The line changes that are now five games old have been fairly successful, I'd say. As we often note around these parts, results surely matter, but the manner they're achieved should be discussed as well. In that spirit, it's the scoring chance numbers that are genuinely pleasing to my eye. The top two lines have bossed proceedings in the winning streak, and last night through two periods both were in complete command. They aren't riding good shooting percentages, but a solid stretch of territorial domination. Glencross-Langkow-Iginla had much the better of it against Legwand et al, and they might get a dose of Koivu-Brunette-Miettinen this evening. Mikko Koivu's pretty good, so this is another worthwhile challenge for them.
Olli Jokinen scored a goal, which is newsworthy in and of itself. Maybe, though, that shouldn't have been such a surprise. I heard Peter Maher mention the considerable spread in Joker's home/away scoring since moving to Calgary, and I'll confess I'd never paid much attention to the location his points were collected at this year:
Home: 21 GP, 3G, 6A, 9 PTS, -5
Away: 21 GP, 5G, 14 A, 19 PTS, +9
The odds are that this is just a run of chance, and the Flames were on the road most of November, at a time when Iginla had the hot stick, but it is strange never the less. Most players are a little better at home for any number of reasons, although one would suspect that a guy who's played mostly P v P shouldn't generally have much of a differential, since he hasn't benefited as much from home cooking in terms of QComp. No matter, in the current set-up, he, Bourque and Dawes have been solid, and they were more than a match for Sullivan-Arnott-Dumont last night. Their quality work pleases me at least as much as anything that Langkow and Iggy have managed.
Tonight might be an occasion where we have to watch the third line a bit more closely. Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse have played well since the former Hab moved to the Twin Cities, and Todd Richards could use them to take a run at the Boyd line. Havlat's not where he was last year in terms of overall performance, but he was very good in Calgary, scoring the winner in OT. I haven't heard about line-ups, and Sutter might well leave things alone, but if McG got a game tonight, I wouldn't be shocked.
The Flames welcomed back Cory Sarich last night, and he was decent enough working with Adam Pardy on the third pair. As the rust comes off, Sarich should get some PK time added to his mix. It also looked like Sutter gave Bouwmeester and Giordano a slightly easier go of things in Nashville, and they had the right sort of scoring chance for/against numbers to justify the move.
Miikka Kiprusoff is slated to work tonight as well, which means McElhinney must be very nearly odds on for a game Friday vs. the BJs. Kipper was, as mentioned previously, very good the last time these teams hooked up, and he was his usual self last night, stopping 27 of 28 shots.
When we last saw the Wild, they were playing fairly well, but they've slid into another funk, losing four in a row, and were smacked by the Hawks last night, managing only 20 shots in a 4-1 loss. Minnesota has seemed a disappointment from the outside, although the complete absence of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and limited play from Brent Burns has almost certainly been at the root of their poor season. To be honest, most teams missing players of that import most of the season would be in some degree of trouble. The Wild sacrificed Josh Harding to Chicago last night, so Niklas Backstrom gets the nod in goal.
The Flames are in a good patch right now, and unlike earlier winning stretches this year, they've been full value for the points. I'd really look forward to watching this one, but for some reason, this one isn't on TV. Sportsnet is carrying a WHL game and the Oilers are off, so I have no idea what's at the root of this. I mentioned last month that the Oil, in a similar circumstance with a game in Tampa, put the match on their website, using their announcers and the Tampa in-house feed. If anyone knows why the Flames aren't doing the same, feel free to enlighten me in comments. Absent that, Mr. Maher and the usual other means will have to suffice. Game time is 6 MT.