New Flames Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos will make their debuts for the Flames tonight as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30PM MT, TSN), a team they haven't beaten at home since 2006--not a good omen for a team already riding a three-game losing streak.
Despite their losses is the off-season and innocuous 4-5-1 record, the Blackhawks boast some impressive offensive talent, and are still a team capable of inflicting damage at any time in a game, as they proved by their recent 5-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Patrick Sharp is tied for fifth in the league with 11 goals on the season while Jonathan Toews isn't too far behind with eight after he scored a hat trick against the Greasers. The 'Hawks allowed only 18 shots on net in their win over Edmonton, and the Flames will need to put forth a better effort at both ends of the ice tonight if they hope to escape with the two points. It'll be interesting to see what role Babchuk, who appears slotted to skate alongside Mark Giordano on the second pairing, will play on the defensive side of things, and if Sutter will try to use him to replace White on the powerplay or if the likes of Gio and Bouwmeester will get more minutes.
Up front, the Flames will be without Olli Jokinen, who is serving the first of his three game suspension tonight, although doubt he'll be missed much around these parts. David Moss, who played centre in pre-season before missing time with an injury, looks to take his place in the lineup, likely alongside Bourque and Glencross. The Flames had an optional practice this morning, but I'd imagine the rest of the lineup will remain unchanged, with Tom Kostopoulos suiting up beside Tim Jackman. Ales Kotalik, Raitis Ivanans, and Ryan Stone all skated this morning, but no timeline has been set for the return of the latter two. Kiprusoff will start in goal for the Flames for the eight straight game, while it sounds like Turco will counter for the 'Hawks, but Chicago plays Vancouver tomorrow night, so we could also see back-up Corey Crawford between the pipes.
It goes without saying that the Flames need to win this game, and the fact that it's mid-November and those that follow this team have been saying this for weeks now certainly gives you some indication of the direction this team appears to be heading it. Already this month stands in stark contrast to last November, where the team compiled a 10-2-2 record on the back of Jarome Iginla's 13 goals and 20 points in that month. It's not too late for this team to get back on track, and while they have been doing some things right over the course of this most recent slide, they're going to have to do them on a far more consistent basis while limiting the negatives if they have any hopes of stringing a few wins together to get back to .500, and that starts tonight.
Enjoy the game everyone, and wish Patrick Kane a not-so-happy birthday in the comments. Go Flames.