The Flames try to avoid another loss to a divisional rival tonight less than 48 hours after a third period meltdown resulted in a 7-2 beatdown at the hands of the Canucks when they face the Minnesota Wild tonight at the Excel Energy Center (6PM MT, Sportsnet West). Both teams are looking to bounce back from losses in their last games, as the Wild fell 4-2 to the Coyotes Wednesday night.
The Wild received a boost up front as forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard returned to the lineup after missing over 100 games with a concussion and Post-Concussion Syndrome, although they are still missing James Sheppard, Guillaume Latendresse, and Chuck Kobasew, who could possibly return tonight against his former team. They've been shooting a lot recently, recording over 30 shots in their past two games, but not getting results. This will be a good test for Henrik Karlsson tonight if this trend continues. The Flames did a good job of limiting the depleted Minnesotan's opportunities the last time these teams met, a 3-0 shutout victory for the good guys, although Miikka Kirprusoff got (and deserved) most of the credit for the 'W.' Ales Kotalik will not play tonight, although he and defenceman Adam Pardy are close to returning to the lineup, while Curtis Glencross managed to avoid suspension after he received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his cross-check on Canucks defencemen Keith Ballard, receiving the league maximum fine instead. Steve Staios draws back into the lineup tonight in favour of Brendan Mikkelson, who had a bit of a rough go of things Wednesday, although his partner Anton Babchuk wasn't much better, nor were the rest of the Flames' blueline brigade.
Brent Sutter appears to have done some tinkering with his team's defence pairings prior to tonight's contest, as Cory Sarich will start on the first pairing with Robyn Regehr while Staios will skate with Jay Bouwmeester. While it's understandable that the coaching staff would want to make some changes following such a poor performance, I'm certainly not an advocate of splitting up the Regehr-Bouwmeester pairing, which Sutter finally seemed to be sticking with following the White trade and had been the Flames' best duo since. Splitting them up and substituting older and inferior defencemen, giving them tougher minutes makes little sense. We'll see how long it lasts tonight.
Lines and Pairings:
Jose Theodore will start tonight, his third consecutive start for the Wild.
Enjoy the game everyone and pray for a bounce-back over our fellow cellar-dwellers in the comments. Go Flames.