The Flames continued their unbeaten streak with a 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at the 'Dome last night. After Jarome Iginla scored seventeen-seconds in off an Olli Jokinen rebound to put the good guys up 1-0, the Flames were on their heels for what seemed like the remainder of the period, and headed into the first intermission tied up at ones. Niklas Hagman's perfectly placed snapshot over the shoulder of Jason LaBarbera gave the home side a 2-1 advantage early in the second, but it wasn't until the third period that the Flames really seemed to dominate the play. Wonder child T.J. Brodie's fluke non-goal goal, which appeared to find the back of the net short side until a replay revealed that the puck actually entered through the mesh on the side, gave the team a 3-1 lead and the eventual win.
Brodie continued to impress with his own-zone breakout, using his speed to jump into the offensive attack, while Henrik Karlsson was solid in his home pre-season debut; he showed good rebound control and appeared especially proficient at using his size to cover the bottom of the net, an area in which I think Kipper sometimes struggles. He seems fairly quick as well, and overall I was happy with what I saw from him in my limited viewing. Mike Peca had some harsh words for Jay Bouwmeester after his own-zone giveaway in the first period led to the Coyotes' tying goal, saying the defencemen was "casual" and "easy to play against" because he often gave up the puck. Bouw finished the night with an even +/- and three shots on net, leading the team in ice time with 24:21 and in shorthanded ice time at 6:41.
Up front, Jarome Iginla had himself a nice night with a goal, a +2 rating, and five shots on net. He was probably the most noticeable forward on the top line and looked to be skating well and in pursuit of the puck all evening. Alex Tanguay also appeared to be on his game; the slick forward was up to his usual tricks, setting up several scoring opportunities and leading all forwards in ice time at 22:45. He even spent some time on the penalty kill with Mikael Backlund, an odd combination in that situation to say the least, but I suppose pre-season is the best time to experiment, so to speak, before it actually counts.
As for Mickis, he struggled slightly in terms of offensive zone faceoffs last night (25%--1 for 4), although the team as a whole won only 45% of their draws at EV. He finished the game a +2 with one assist and was promoted to the top line after Olli Jokinen left the game early in the second period with what is reportedly a strained muscle in his back. Brent Sutter has been quoted saying that the injury is "nothing serious" and he is currently listed as day-to-day. I can't say the thought of the team starting the season minus its top three centres makes me feel particularly at ease, and I suddenly find myself wishing Ryan Stone an expedited recovery, but it is what it is. It's certainly better to get the rash of injuries out of the way now rather than down the road in March when the team is (hopefully) competing for a playoff spot. Anyways, onto tonight's matchup after the jump.
The Flames square off against the Isles tonight in Saskatoon (7:00PM MT, Sportsnet Flames and The Fan 960). It's split-squad games for the Isles tonight, as half of their roster heads to Saskatoon to take on the Flames while the other half will travel to Philadelphia. The Flames will be facing the bottom end of the roster in terms of age and experience tonight, as the likes of John Tavares, Calvin de Haan, and 2010 fifth overall pick Nino Niederrieter are all expected to be in the lineup while Rick DiPietro should play, assuming he doesn't injure himself between now and game time. For the Flames, the healthy 2/3 of the top line are sitting this one out and Rene Bourque is curiously absent for the second consecutive game after taking a "maintenance" day on Monday. John Armstrong should return to the lineup tonight after suffering an eye injury earlier in camp while Greg Nemisz and Jon Rheault will get another chance to leave an impression on the powers that be. Here's the rest of the expected roster, as per the official Flames website:
Armstrong, Backlund, Brodie, Conroy, Cunning, Giordano, Glencross, Hagman, Ivanans, Jackman, Kotalik,
Kronwall, Meyer, Moss, Nemisz, Pardy, Pelech, Rheault, Sarich, White
Also worth mentioning is that Cory Sarich will get a chance to play in his hometown tonight; he was paired with Brodie in his last time out against the Bolts, so that option is certainly a possibility again tonight, as Bouwmeester and Regehr each have the evening off while Pelech, Pary, and Kronwall all get another go at things.
That's about it for now, enjoy the game everyone--I'll likely be limited to the radio broadcast tonight so I'll deliver what I can in terms of post-game thoughts later on.