After losing six of their past seven games, one got the feeling that changes were coming for the Flames--and today they did, as Ian White and Brett Sutter were traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos, who should be in the lineup Friday against the Blackhawks.
The Flames' struggles on defence have received little attention so far this season, but are certainly cause for concern, especially as the team has the second-most dollars invested in their blueline after the Maple Leafs. The team is allowing .25 more goals per game than they're scoring, although they are outshooting their opposition by about two shots per game. Kiprusoff's .906 EV SV%, while not spectacular, certainly can't bear the brunt of the blame for the team's poor goal differential. In terms of underlying stats, Regehr and Mikkelson are the only ones in the red when it comes to Corsi, operating at rates of -8.29 and -11.90 respectively; Mikkelson is getting absolutely buried in terms of ZoneStart, staring in the offensive end only 39.2% of the time compared to Regehr's 51.4%.
While evidence suggests that White was slightly in over his head in terms of competition (he ranked second amongst regular Flames d-men in QualComp), he still managed a positive Corsi rate and had a manageable ZS% at 53.2. I suppose he just wasn't putting up the numbers expected from a guy making nearly $3M, but that was to be expected after the bounces went his way for much of last season.
Up front, it's the same old story for the Flames. They're getting the shots, but they need to be better at converting those shots into scoring chances and, more importantly, goals. The top line was an embarrassing -7 and had only one shot on goal last time out against the Coyotes, and will need to be much better if the Flames hope to draw even in the season series tonight. With White's departure, both Staios and Mikkelson will be in the lineup tonight and Matt Stajan moves back up to the first line with Tanguay and Iginla.
Lines and Pairings:
Ilya Bryzgalov will counter for the Coyotes, and word on the street is that the infamous Paul "BizNasty" Bissonnette will play tonight.
Enjoy the game everyone, and curse Vernon Fiddler/eagerly anticipate the arrival of the newest Flames in the comments. Go Flames.