After looking rather mediocre and uninspired in their third straight loss, a 2-1 setback to the Red Wings two nights ago, the Flames look to get back in the win column tonight against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul. After dominating the Wild in recent seasons, particularly at home, the Minnesotans got the best of the Flames last season with five wins in six games against their Northwest division rivals. The season ended with both teams on the outside looking in, and while there were a number of factors that contributed to Minnesota's demise such as the loss of Marian Gaborik and the sub-par performance of their goaltender, Gabe demonstrates at Behind the Net that the Wild were also a titch unlucky in 2009-10.
The Wild (5-4-2) have been off since Tuesday evening when they beat the Sharks 1-0 at home despite being outshot to the tune of 36-16, thanks to a magnificent performance by goalie Niklas Backstrom, although the fact that the Sharks were shorthanded seven times in the game including one double-minor probably didn't hurt the home side too badly either. Former Flame Eric Nystrom has no goals on 15 shots, no points, and is -6 so far this season, playing mostly on the Wild's third line with long-time Devils defensive stalwart John Madden. Twelve games in, Nystrom has a Corsi rate of -15.11/60 and ranks fourth in Quality of Competition amongst Wild forwards; another former Flame, Chuck Kobasew, has had the easiest go of things in terms of QualComp amongst Minny's forwards, and a Corsi rate of only -13/60 to go along with it. Both forwards have been on the wrong side of the bounces early on, however. Nystrom is also starting less often in the offensive zone than Kobasew, with a ZoneStart ratio of 48.4%.
The Wild have been bitten by the injury bug as of late, and are missing Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who is recovering from post-concussion syndrome, Guillaume Latendresse (groin), Antti Miettinen (concussion), and possibly Marek Zidlicky (lower body) tonight. Combined with the fact that the Wild haven't played since Tuesday evening, the Flames will likely be aiming to get a jump on the home side early on.
There was some bad news for the Flames today as it was revealed that Curtis Glencross will miss tonight's game with what coach Brent Sutter is calling "a little boo-boo." Stefan Meyer, who was a healthy scratch against the Red Wings as David Moss drew back into the lineup, will take his place. Brendan Mikkelson will also sit tonight in favour of Steve Staios, who will likely skate alongside Cory Sarich; Robyn Regehr and Ian White didn't skate in today's optional practice, but both will play tonight.
Lines and Pairings:
Minnesota's forward lines should look like this (from the Star Tribune):
I believe Backstrom will start tonight, as Jose Theodore looks set to get his second start of the season tomorrow night when the Wild play the Blue Jackets.
Enjoy the game everyone and hope that Eric Nystrom doesn't get his second career almost-hat-trick tonight in the comments. Go Flames.