The Flames turned in something of an uninspired performance Friday night in a shootout loss to a streaking Sharks club at home, and will try to get back on track with a 'W' against the St. Louis Blues tonight, who will be looking to play the role of spoiler for Western Conference teams looking to solidify a post-season berth down the stretch. The two teams last met about a month ago in a 4-1 victory for the good guys, who will certainly want to replicate that result tonight.
Outside of a short stretch of time when they took the lead in the second period, the Flames were mostly out-played Friday night, and were fortunate to get the loser point. Although they took advantage of the breaks they got to score three goals against a tired team that has been unbeatable lately, they spent far too much time in their own zone and a lot of players looked to be fighting the puck. That will have to change tonight, as the Flames have a chance to jump back into a tie for sixth place with the idle Minnesota Wild with at least a point tonight.
The Blues currently sit six points back of tonight's host in thirteenth place in the West and are tied with the Oilers for the fewest road wins in the Conference at ten. The Blues have gone 3-3-0 since losing goaltender Jaroslav Halak to injury nearly two weeks ago, and two of those wins have come via the shutout with goalies Ty Conklin and Ben Bishop splitting the duties in net.
The trade with the Avalanche that brought Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis has definitely infused some instant offence into the Blues' lineup, as both currently rank in the top ten in scoring on the club. Stewart has been shooting the lights out this season, operating at an SH% of 17.6, and we've all seen what he's capable of in earlier games with the Avs.
The Blues have managed to put together a pretty decent group of forwards with David Backes leading the way at 23 goals and 46 points, although the team has seen significant rotation this season due to injury. Former Flames prospect Adam Cracknell has even seen some time with the big club this season, appearing in nine games with the Blues and collecting one assist.
As for the Flames, Tim Jackman is expected to return to the lineup tonight after leaving Friday's game following a fight with San Jose's Ryan Clowe while 2008 first-round pick Greg Nemisz is slated to make his NHL debut tonight with Niklas Hagman likely out with the flu after missing practice yesterday and today. Nemisz is second on the Heat in scoring in his rookie season, with 13 goals and 27 points, and leads the team in special teams goals, with four on the powerplay and three shorthanded markers in 59 games. What is perhaps more important is that Nemisz has managed to stay healthy this season after missing a portion of his final OHL season with a leg injury, which bodes well for his development--especially his skating--which has been referred to as his main weakness in the past. I'm looking forward to seeing Nemisz in action, even if he's limited to fourth-line minutes at even strength, which will likely be the case.
Lines and Pairings:
Miikka Kiprusoff will start again tonight despite struggling to corral the puck at times during Friday's contest, and the behemoth 6 ft. 7" Bishop will counter for the Blues. It's a small sample size, but Bishop has done well with the Blues thus far, with two wins in three appearances and an SV% of .948.
Enjoy the game everyone and bid farewell to every Flames player ahead of tomorrow's deadline in the comments...just in case. Go Flames.