After the media circus that has been surrounding the Flames for the past few days following Darryl Sutter's resignation and subsequent replacement by interim GM Jay Feaster, this team still has 45 games left to play this season, starting tonight at home against the Colorado Avalanche (7PM MT, Sportsnet West).
The Avs are a full 10 points ahead of the Flames in the Western Conference standings despite losing four of their past five games before beating the Oilers in a shootout last night after blowing a three-goal lead in the game. Colorado has a pretty decent road record so far this season, going 10-6-3 away from the Pepsi Centre thus far, and will be looking to make life difficult for the Flames on home ice this evening, where they earned a 6-5 victory earlier this season.
The Avs are scoring nearly at a pace of nearly a goal more per game than the Flames, mostly due to the fact that they're shooting more than last season, when they were one of the lowest-shooting teams in the league. Colorado is averaging 30.6 shots per game in 2010-11, 2.7 more than last season and near identical to the number of pucks the Flames are directing at their opposition.
They're allowing about one shot less against per game than last season, but the goals against aren't necessarily following suit, as the Avs have allowed thirteen more goals and an average of .40 more per game than tonight's competition. The Flames didn't face tonight's starter Craig Anderson last time they met the Avalanche nearly two months ago, the man who had their number for the majority of the games between the two clubs last season and has a .926 career SV% against his former team.
Anderson has struggled on special teams this season, however. His EV SV% is a respectable .917, but his PK SV% is a miserable .848 and even worse shorthanded, at .778%. The Avs rank third last in the league on the penalty kill, so the Flames will have to do their best to take advantage of the opportunities they get. The Avs have been shorthanded just ten fewer times than the Flames so far this season at 145, so it's not as if they're the most disciplined club in the league, but the home team will have to stay out of the box nonetheless, as Colorado's powerplay is amongst the league's top ten man advantage units. Thankfully, the Flames won't have to contend with Chris Stewart, one of the Avs' leading PP scorers, who is still out of the lineup with a broken hand, although the likes of Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, and Milan Hejduk are still dangerous both at EV and with the extra man.
The Flames had an optional skate this morning, so lines and pairings for tonight's game are unclear; in all likelihood, the team that hits the ice at the 'Dome tonight will likely be the same one that captured the 'W' against the Sabres back on Tuesday evening (a.k.a. no Mikael Backlund), but any players drawing in or out of the lineup will probably be announced closer to game time. We do know that Kiprusoff will start between the pipes for the home side after a solid showing in his past two games, both wins, while Karlsson will likely go tomorrow in Edmonton.
The Flames haven't been beaten in a New Year's Eve game in seven years, with their last defeat coming at the hands of the Avalanche in 2003.
Enjoy the game everyone, and close out 2010 in style in the comments. Go Flames.
Happy New Year!