The last time the Flames and Sharks met, the end result was arguably the best of the young season for the good guys--a 4-0 shutout victory over San Jose. That seems very unlikely to repeat itself tonight, however, as these two teams appear to be headed in opposite directions for the time being. The Sharks have won two of their past three games and have points in all three, while the Flames have lost five of their past six. Last night's 5-4 setback to the Phoenix Coyotes was particularly ugly for the top line, or at least the known 2/3 of it. Despite scoring late in the game, Alex Tanguay was a -2, had just one shot on goal, and played just over thirteen minutes at EV. It was an even worse night for the Captain; Jarome Iginla managed to be on the ice for all four of the Coyotes non-empty net goals, had zero shots on net. Even more disconcerting are the pair's underlying stats; they were the only forwards in the red in terms of Corsi, all while facing third liners Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt.
David Moss led the team with eight shots, and the next closest players were Rene Bourque and Mark Giordano with four apiece. The leading ice-time getters in terms of Flames forwards were Bourque, Curtis Glencross, Olli Jokinen, and Niklas Hagman. While it's reassuring that the team's so-called "secondary scorers" (minus Jokinen) are pulling their weight while facing tougher opposition, the effort from what are supposed to be this team's best forwards hasn't been there, and that's not a good sign heading into a game against a team that boasts three of the league's most talented scorers in Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau.
Along with the fact that the Flames outshot and out-chanced the Coyotes last night (Hagman was a team-best +11 in scoring chance differential!), another positive to take out of last night's game is the fact that the team managed to stay out of the penalty box completely, and a continuation of that trend tonight against the Sharks' fifth-ranked powerplay would certainly be welcome, but it's very unlikely. The Flames have struggled to maintain their discipline against teams that both skate and pass the puck quickly, and San Jose falls into that category regardless of what their 7-5-2 record might suggest. The Sharks lead the league in shots for/game at 35.6, so limiting the damage in terms of shots against will be the first step towards limiting the damage on the score sheet, unless Kipper has one of his unreal bounce-back-from-a-bad-game games after last night's iffy showing in Glendale.
Lines and Pairings:
Antti Niemi will counter in net for the Sharks, and if the Flames are lucky they might just catch him on an off night again. There are no other lineup changes to report for San Jose, who appear to be healthy for the time being.
Enjoy the game everyone, and hope that maybe Iggy will decide to show up tonight in the comments. Go Flames.