When we last saw the Flames, they hopped over the struggling St. Louis Blues in the standings with their third straight win; tonight, the two clubs will compete for pre-All Star break supremacy at the 'Dome in their first meeting of the season (8PM MT, Sportsnet West)
Much like the Flames, the Blues have been up and down this season, struggling to score goals both at even strength and on the powerplay, with a lower output than the Flames in both categories. No Blues player has reached the 20-goal plateau through 48 games, with American Olympian David Backes being the closest at 16. Much like the Predators, St. Louis has managed to stay afloat thanks to the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, who has a respectable ES SV% of .914 in 39 games. Halak has struggled recently, losing four of his past five starts and allowing sixteen goals in the span, but much like the goalie at the other end of the rink tonight, he's sure to bounce back.
Speaking of Miikka Kiprusoff, tonight marks his 500th career game, a pretty special accomplishment for a guy drafted in the fifth round and acquired by the Flames for a third-round draft pick. He's been recognized as one of the league's upper-echelon goaltenders for the majority of his career with the Flames and has singly-handedly dragged them kicking and screaming to victory in more games than I would care to count. He may not be a Vezina candidate anymore, but the Flames would be significantly worse off without him, and I think some people forget that when he does have a bad game or series of games.
Also of note for the Flames tonight is former Blue Craig Conroy's future with the club. The 39-year old cleared waivers this morning and has been given the All Star break to make a decision, having reportedly told the Calgary Sun he's leaning towards retirement.
Conroy has done great things for this organization in parts of nine seasons with the club, although he has seen a progressively more limited role since being brought back to Calgary upon the request of good friend Jarome Iginla in 2006-07, leading up to this season when he appeared in just 18 games for the Flames. Always upbeat and polite in the media, I don't think you could find many hockey fans with a bad word to say about Conroy; he truly loved the Flames, their fans, and the city of Calgary, and it's a shame his career appears to be ending this way. I know everyone here will be sad to see him go, although it's probably not the last we'll hear of the talkative veteran.
As for the tonight's game, this contest represents an opportunity for the Flames to take advantage of the fact that the teams below them are struggling, and to put a little bit of distance between themselves and the basement heading into the break. Like the Nashville Predators, the Blues are missing a fair amount of players to injury. With Barret Jackman and Carlo Colaiacovo missing from the blueline and Andy McDonald and David Perron out up front, St. Louis is lacking some firepower throughout their lineup, and the Flames will have to try and take advantage of that at home.
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Enjoy the game everyone and reminisce about Craig Conroy in the comments. Happy trails, buddy. Go Flames.