Tonight the Flames hit the road to open up a two game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes at 5:00 P.M. MST.
The Flames come into this game having been shut out in five of their last eight games. They're holding down 29th place in the NHL in goals scored, which may be causing a negative effect in the locker room with everyone banging their heads and trying to figure out a way to score. In the end, it all comes down to shooting and getting prime scoring chances. Through this treacherous stretch, Calgary has only out-shot their opponents in three of the eight games. There should be no surprise that they are having troubles scoring. They finally got back onto the scoresheet last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, when Mikael Backlund shot it past Marc-Andre Fleury to give the good-guys their first goal at home in over a week. After the game Backlund talked about finally breaking the deadlock at home:
It was obviously nice to get a goal, since we haven't had too many at home here lately. Personally, obviously, it feels good too. But it doesn't feel good if you don't win.
The Flames are also expected to have Ben Street in the lineup for tonight's game which is sure to bring some much needed heart on the forecheck.
The Hurricanes on the other hand, have been playing great as of late. They are 5-2-1 in their eight games since the Christmas break, scoring 20 goals through that stretch. It doesn't necessarily translate to a high octane offense, but it sure is much more than what the Flames have in their past eight games. Now don't get me wrong here, Carolina is a red-hot team right now, but they have had their fair share of struggles throughout the season as well. They only have 10 more goals than Calgary, which makes them 25th overall in the NHL and they are coming off a 3-0 shutout loss to Columbus on Friday. And hey, many teams have been inconsistent this season (insert obvious Toronto Maple Leafs joke), so this seems like the perfect opportunity for both teams to display their scoring prowess.
Keys to Winning
Score, score, score! I don't even think this should be a key to winning considering it should be a given for every team in the NHL to score goals, but the Flames just aren't finding the back of the net. This has to be a team effort because even when the Flames win games it always seems to be because of the guys who usually always step up their game; Jiri Hudler, Mike Cammaleri, and Mark Giordano. Eventually, those players will need some support to back them up on a rough stretch of games, like the past few games the team's been having, and get some goals and help them produce. Those guys need their supporting cast of players to sometimes produce, Lee Stempniak (14), T.J. Galliardi (7), and Dennis Wideman (13). One more name that stands out in my mind is rookie Sean Monahan. He started off the season incredibly, and although he was not expected to keep that pace up, he hasn't been playing too well coming off of his injury to his foot.
One of the biggest momentum killers in hockey is when your goalie gives up a softy and it puts the other team ahead and this, surprisingly, is a weakness that Calgary needs to address. Reto Berra and Karri Ramo have been outstanding for the Flames in net this season, not saying they haven't, but it's always that one goal or those two goals that they should have saved, that always end up ruining it for the team. A perfect example of it was last night on the goal scored by Matt Niskanen in the second period that put the Penguins ahead 2-0. It was a floater that went five-hole past Berra, had that goal not gone, there very well may have been a different outcome in the game. The Flames could have counter-attacked and got a goal. If all went well, the Backlund goal would have been the tying goal that sent the game into overtime, the Pens could have scored again. But, since it went in, I guess we'll never know.
Fun Fact: Through the struggles that the Flames are having there are players throughout the league that have scored more goals than the team after the Christmas Break. John Tavares (7), Patrick Sharp (7), and Jeff Skinner (7) who they will be facing in tonight's game!
Be sure to catch this game live on Sportsnet West at 5:00 PM MST. Check back here for the GameThread, going live just before gametime, and check out Canes Country for more on Carolina.