After an impressive win at home against the Sharks on Sunday, the Flames are back at it tonight, facing the rival Oilers for the third time in just nine games [7PM MT, Sportsnet West]. Edmonton has been off since getting blown out by the Sharks on Saturday, and no doubt received a verbal lashing along with some form of punishment in the following days--If you've seen the first installment of Oil Change, you'll know that Tom Renney can sure drop some F-bombs in the dressing room when the mood strikes him. The Oil have lost four straight games since starting the season 2-0, and tonight's contest has the makings of one between two teams headed in opposite directions for the time being, with the Flames having won four of their last five.
Anyway, the Greasers will be rested tonight, young fresh legs and all that, and will surely be looking to atone for the poor result achieved in their most recent outing when the puck drops. The Flames will likely need to have their wits about them from the get go in order to avoid finding themselves in an early hole.
If there's one area the Flames should look to exploit tonight, it's Edmonton's penalty kill. It's early days yet, but the Oilers' PK is the second-worst in the NHL, operating at 66.7%. Their road PK efficiency is even worse, stumbling along at a paltry 50%. Although the Flames scored only once on six opportunities with the man advantage Sunday against the Sharks, the powerplay showed signs of improvement, moving the puck well and generating shots and scoring chances. The Flames have yet to allow a PPG at home (knock on wood), and are currently operating at 90.6% efficiency when down a man.
Glencross, Backlund, and Morrison continue to be the team's best line in terms of scoring chances and possession, and while the trio of Iginla-Stajan-Tanguay have put together some nice games recently, Rene Bourque still has the hottest stick of all, with six goals in his last four games--including three game winners. Steve Staios will draw back into the lineup for the Flames tonight after Brent Sutter was reportedly unimpressed with the play of Brendan Mikkelson on Sunday. His underlying numbers weren't terrible by and means and I thought he played fine, but I'm not an NHL head coach. Practically any other option that the Flames might have available to them on defence seems to be superior to Staios, but what can you do? The team insists on playing him despite the fact that he's an obvious liability.
Lines and pairings:
Nikolai Khabiboozin Khabibulin will counter in net for the visitors, who are reportedly dressing Steve MacIntyre for tonight's game, according to TSN's Jermaine Franklin. An odd choice since the Flames' resident goon Raitis Ivanans is still (thankfully) rendered unavailable as a result of the last time the two exchanged pleasantries. With the exception of Tim Jackman, it seems unlikely that MacIntyre will find a willing combatant, unless things get out of hand. Besides, Jackman has actually been playing pretty well recently, so I'd hate for him to succumb to a similar fate.
Enjoy the game everyone and take some comfort in the fact that these two teams only play three more times throughout the rest of the season---promise. Go Flames.