The Flames are coming into this game on a two-game losing streak, and with the Wings sitting in second place in the conference a full 16 points ahead of tonight's hosts (7PM MT, Sportsnet West), about the only thing these two teams have in common at the moment is that they've both lost to the Islanders recently.
The Flames wrap up the season series against Detriot tonight having not beaten the Red Wings in three previous contests, including a crushing 5-4 overtime loss the last time they played at the Joe Louis in November. The Wings have outscored the Flames 11-7 in those three games, although this time around might be Calgary's best chance to pull one over on Detroit, as the Wings are missing top scorers Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary, as well as Patrick Eaves and possibly forward Valtteri Filppula.
Even then, it might not be enough for the Flames to catch the Wings, as Detroit has been scoring at a rate of 3.45 goals/game, almost a full goal more than the home side. If Calgary can ever figure out how to get their powerplay running, they might be able to take advantage of a Red Wings PK that likely isn't as good as it should be, operating at an efficiency of just over two percentage points more than the Flames'. The Wings haven't exactly been a shining example of defensive hockey at times this season, allowing just six fewer goals altogether, but when you're scoring at a higher rate, a few slip-ups in your own zone don't matter as much, which is a luxury the Flames have rarely been able to afford at the halfway point of the season.
On the Flames' side of things, it looks like Ales Kotalik might sit tonight after he didn't skate in the team's optional practice this morning. Kotalik is just one of a few Flames players who could probably benefit from a night off after Niklas Hagman took a seat in the press box in Wednesday's loss to the Canucks. Mikael Backlund remains on a line with Kostopoulos and Jackman after that line provided the lone offensive spark two days ago while David Moss moves up to right wing on the third line with Rene Bourque and Brendan Morrison.
Lines and Pairings:
Miikka Kiprusoff starts in net tonight after a less than stellar outing in Vancouver, where he allowed three goals on 21 shots, while Jimmy Howard will counter for the Wings.
Enjoy the game everyone and watch Todd Bertuzzi and his recent scoring streak skate circles around his former teammates in the comments. Go Flames.