After losing back-to-back games to the Wild, the Flames have some ground to make up in the West if they have any hopes of clawing their way to within striking distance of the top eight, and tonight's opponent, the Blue Jackets (5PM MT, Sportsnet West) just so happens to be one of the teams they're chasing.
The Jackets currently sit four points ahead of the Flames with two games in hand. They're three games over .500 despite having lost their past two games and going just 2-5-3 in their last ten. The Jackets received a boost recently in the return of former Flame Kristian Huselius, who has six goals and eight points in the ten games he's been limited to due to injury. He's shooting a whopping 24% at the moment, putting him on pace for a career-high 36 goals this season. What's more, in 11 games versus his former club, the man once known affectionately as "Juice" has three goals and 10 points; alongside Rick Nash, he'll be identified as one of Columbus' premier offensive threats tonight, and treated as such by whomever is put on shutdown duty by Brent Sutter.
Columbus has the league's second worst powerplay through 32 games this season, but the Flames have been struggling on the PK recently, allowing two goals on three man advantage opportunities for the Wild in last night's loss, a game that was within reach until the third period. Calgary has been doing a good job of drawing more penalties than they've been taking lately, but the team's shorthanded play almost seems to be suffering as a result. Perhaps they're out of practice due to a lack of boneheaded penalties by one of Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque, or Cory Sarich.
On the second game of a back-to-back scenario, the Flames did not practice this morning, so lines and pairings for this evening's contest are up in the air. The latest from the Herald's Scott Cruikschank is that Ales Kotalik and Mikael Backlund, who sat out yesterday's game in Minnesota, took the pre-game skate while Craig Conroy appears to be out. Henrik Karlsson will start in net for the Flames after taking the team in front of him to a shootout in his last two appearances. Mathieu Garon will counter for the Jackets; in 13 career games versus the Flames, Garon is 8-4-1 with a .925 SV%, and came on in relief of Steve Mason after the latter surrendered two quick goals to Calgary the last time these two teams met.
Enjoy the game everyone and hope Kristian Huselius takes it easy on his former mates in the comments. Go Flames.