After going 1-2-2 on their five-game road trip, the Flames are finally home tonight to take on the Minnesota Wild (7PM MT, Sportsnet Flames) on Canadian Forces appreciation night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The largely unsuccessful road trip set the home side back even further in the division standings, as they now sit four points behind tonight's opponent, who currently occupy the third spot in the Northwest with 24 points.
After giving up seven goals in their loss to Colorado this past weekend, the Wild have lost three of their past four games, and tonight's matchup appears to be one between two desperate teams that currently find themselves on the outside looking in a quarter of the way through the season. The Wild are 4-4-1 away from home this season, and have a goal differential of -5, but somewhat shockingly, they have the league's second best powerplay unit, operating at 25% efficiency with the extra man.
The Wild are generally a team that lacks star power aside from the likes of Mikko Koivu and Martin Havlat, but the bad news for the Flames is that the latter has 13 points in his last eight games, and 12 goals and 21 points in 21 career games versus Calgary. Havlat has been an absolute Flame killer, and shutting him down will no doubt be a priority for the Flames' coaching staff tonight. Iginla and Tanguay have been doing fairly well for themselves against pretty tough competition recently, but in order to effectively limit the damage done by the Wild's top two scorers, playing on different lines, the Flames will need a much better game out of the line of Curtis Glencross, David Moss, and Rene Bourque, who were uncharacteristically in the red in Corsi and scoring chance differential Sunday against the Penguins.
Minnesota will be shorthanded for tonight's matchup, as they are missing defenceman Clayton Stoner, goalie Josh Harding, and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard, James Sheppard, Guillaume Latendresse, and Chuck Kobasew. For the Flames, the usual suspects are still out with everyone but Langkow and now Ivanans, who has reportedly suffered a setback in his recovery from the concussion he suffered on opening night, is practicing.
Craig Conroy will sit tonight as will Steve Staios, as Cory Sarich re-joins the lineup. The club also put forward Stefan Meyer on waivers today, presumably to make room for Ales Kotalik, who looks ready to re-join the team later this week. The Flames are also trying Olli Jokinen on the wing tonight, which will be interesting to track as the game progresses. Anton Babchuk, who has yet to make any real impression on me whatsoever other than the fact that he's been mostly in the red since joining the team, is bumped down to the third defence pairing tonight.
Lines and Pairings:
Jose Theodore will counter in net for the Wild.
Enjoy the game everyone, and revel in the anxiety of yet another must-win in the comments. Go Flames.