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Flames Game Day: Pullin' out of the Last Chance Texaco

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Pengrowth Saddledome

8 PM MT

Opposition: Anaheim Calling

TV:CBC

The last game before the Olympic break has finally arrived, and for the Flames and a good number of their fans, I suspect it's not one day too soon. It's been a very difficult period since they beat the Canucks in 5 weeks ago tonight in Vancouver. The club's withered offence ultimately appeared to force the GM to move a personal favourite, as well as a player he'd long coveted, in a pair of deals that should have given Calgary the sort of forward depth it seemed to lack from training camp onward.

We haven't seen much evidence on the scoresheet of any improvement, and tonight is the final opportunity before the vacation that the current group has to make a case for themselves. It's fairly easy to envision a scenario where another night of fruitless endeavor prompts the boss into more deck shuffling after the Olympics. Tonight, they'll meet a team that is nipping on their heels, and one that has troubled them since the lock-out even when Calgary has seemed to have an advantage.

 

 

After a decent night in Ottawa, the Hagman-Stajan-Iginla line went a bit quiet on Thursday, with EV chances few and far between. If Ryan Getzlaf is still out, this is a chance for that line to make something happen against slightly lesser competititon, and right now, the Flames need goals from anywhere and everywhere, so taking full advantage of favourable circumstances is pretty much mandatory. If Getzlaf is a go, Sutter may still attempt to get Langkow et al out against that line, and allow Iginla a chance to see if he can find something to spark his play versus lesser foes.

Irrespective of the match-ups, the Higgins-Langkow-Kotalik trio remains intact. They've played very well, but there hasn't been much finish from these gents either, and Christopher Higgins remains on track for for a very odd season statistically. Last year, there were 66 forwards in the NHL who had 200 SOG or more. The lowest scoring of that selection was Dustin Byfuglien with 15 goals on 202 SOG, and only 4 of those 66 players were under 20 goals. Even the poorest in that grouping shot around 6 %. Higgins is currently tracking for 207 SOG, 3.9 SH% and 8 goals. In other words, he's overdue, even if his mitts have completely disappeared.

There are some changes at the bottom of the roster, with Jamie Lundmark headed to Toronto via waiver claim, and Backlund skating yesterday with returnees Nigel Dawes and David Moss. I'd guess that the final decisions on any of the lines will wait until right before gametime, but with Backlund playing, the Flames have moved Bourque to the IR to balance the numbers. I'd suspect that Mikael Backlund will meet the minor league team tomorrow simply to keep him playing during the Olympics, but with the roster limits ending on March 3rd, only a trade for a veteran center or some magic healing on Craig Conroy's part will prevent the youngster from returning to the big club any time thereafter. 

 

The defence is in a period of stasis, and with the team limiting shots as thoroughly as they have of late, I suppose that's fair enough, even with my misgivings about the make-up of the individual pairs. In net, it'll be Kipper, as usual.

 

Anaheim's begun to make a move up the standings, just as they did at this time last season. They are, of course, lead by Olympians Getzlaf and Perry, and the Ducks' number one center did skate this morning. Good news for Canada, bad news for the Flames, right? There was talk of Chicago attempting to re-acquire James Wisniewski before the trade freeze, but I'd wager that yesterday's Hawk deal for Kim Johnsson had scuppered that move. The Ducks are playing well enough that talk of shipping off players like Niedermayer, Selanne and Koivu has quieted for now, and they can catch Calgary with a win this evening. 

The Ducks have a very good PP, so, as always, the best hope in this one is to stay at 5 v 5 as much as possible. Getting Dawes and Moss should help, if for no other reason that someone like Glencross should get easier match-ups. It seems fairly clear to me that the Flames M.O. from here on out is to saw-off the other teams' top-six, then win the game with their depth. Anaheim is pretty top-heavy, so that theory will get a good going-over tonight. No matter how the game plays out in terms of style, the Flames need a win, or they could well be in 11th place at the close of business tomorrow night.

 

Game time is 8 PM on CBC.