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Calgary Flames vs Detroit Red Wings game preview: Mikael Backlund is BACK!

The Flames are getting a massive boost down the middle as they look to get back in the win column.

Mikael Backlund is all that matters
Mikael Backlund is all that matters
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon, the Detroit Red Wings played in the Western Conference. They threw multiple hissy fits about this fact, and when Winnipeg came along and messed up the old divisional format, they finally got their wish, and now we only have to see them twice a year, and it's great. Last season, the Calgary Flames dropped both games, although they were close, and one required overtime.

Tonight, the first of these two meetings takes place. More importantly, though, tonight heralds the return of Mikael frickin'  Backlund. One of the Flames best centres and possession players, period, is finally coming back, having been kept out of the lineup since Oct. 28, 2014, after dealing with an abdominal strain that was an issue since the pre-season. And oh boy, have the Flames missed him.

Most recently, the Flames dropped a snoozer to the New York Islanders. While Team Canada was being fun and exciting and scoring a ton (re: eight) goals against Team Denmark, the Flames quickly fell behind courtesy of a two-minute five-on-three (weirdly enough, Team Canada got a two-minute five-on-three at pretty much the same time), couldn't get a shot on net if their lives depended on it, and then did that thing they do where they rallied at the end of the game on the back of a Johnny Gaudreau goal. It wasn't enough, though, as they ultimately succumbed 2-1. Thanks John Tavares. | RecapStatsBoxscore | I mean, if you want to try finding a highlight:

The Red Wings, one of those playoff stalwarts of the NHL, meanwhile, are a pretty okay team for him to return against. Last night, they defeated the Edmonton Oilers, as most NHL teams are wont to do, 4-2. In very Edmonton fashion, when they'd just tied the game with just over four minutes to go, the Red Wings capitalized on two quick powerplay goals within the game's final minute to ice them away. Justin Abdelkader was in on three of those four total goals, so he just might be someone to watch out for on their second of a back-to-back.

With the Flames so rested and the Wings not, it'll certainly be interesting to see how both teams start the game. Head on over to Winging It In Motown for more on tonight's opposition.

Game time: 7:30 p.m. MT

Channel: SN

All-time record: The Flames have a chance to even the overall record tonight, as they're currently just behind the Wings at 72-73-16-5. The Wings have a goal differential of +10, though, so the Flames probably won't be able to even that part up tonight. PROBABLY. I mean, it's certainly possible. Perhaps by the power of Mikael Backlund? ... It's fun to dream??

Common threads: This may shock you, but the Flames have a former Red Wing on the roster. His name is Jiri Hudler, and he spent seven years in Detroit, playing 409 games, scoring 87 goals, putting up 214 points, and doing things like winning the Stanley Cup that one time. He's now in his third year in Calgary, playing with prospects like Johnny Gaudreau, being very fun and much loved. Yay!

Approaching milestones: Jonas Hiller has played a total of 19,940 minutes over his career. That's a lot, and approximately one full game off of 20,000. Except he won't make that total tonight, because for once, Karri Ramo is actually being allowed to start a game. Who saw that coming?

Current records and leaders

Calgary Flames Detroit Red Wings
21-16-3: 45 points 21-10-9: 51 points
Pacific Division: 5th Atlantic Division: 3rd
Western Conference: 9th Eastern Conference: 5th
Time on ice
Defence: TJ Brodie (24:54 per game)
Forward: Sean Monahan (19:32 per game)
Defence: Niklas Kronwall (23:43 per game)
Forward: Henrik Zetterberg (19:32 per game)
Points
Goals: Jiri Hudler
Johnny Gaudreau (13)
Assists: Jiri Hudler
Mark Giordano (25)
Points: Jiri Hudler (38)
Goals: Tomas Tatar (16)
Assists: Henrik Zetterberg (25)
Points: Henrik Zetterberg (34)
Shots
Shots on goal: Sean Monahan (102)
Shooting percentage: Josh Jooris (20.5%)
Shots on goal: Henrik Zetterberg (128)
Shooting percentage: Stephen Weiss (21.7%)
Faceoff Leaders
Sean Monahan (49.8%, 872 taken) Pavel Datsyuk (57.4%, 465 taken)
Grit
Penalty minutes: Brandon Bollig (40)
Hits: Lance Bouma (120)
Blocked shots: Kris Russell (123)
Penalty minutes: Kyle Quincey (35)
Hits: Justin Abdelkader (74)
Blocked shots: Niklas Kronwall (57)
Corsi/Fenwick (minimum 1/2 team's games played)
Corsi for%: Mark Giordano (47.6%,40 GP)
Jiri Hudler (47.5%, 39 GP)
Fenwick for%: Josh Jooris (49.4%, 30 GP)
Paul Byron (48.8%, 40 GP)
Corsi for%: Tomas Tatar (59.1%, 39 GP)
Riley Sheahan (59.0%, 39 GP)
Fenwick for%: Riley Sheahan (59.7%, 39 GP)
Tomas Jurco (58.9%, 36 GP)


Possible starting lineups

Calgary Flames
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Curtis Glencross Sean Monahan Joe Colborne
Johnny Gaudreau Josh Jooris Jiri Hudler
Mason Raymond Mikael Backlund Paul Byron
Brandon Bollig Matt Stajan Lance Bouma
Left Defense Right Defense
Mark Giordano TJ Brodie
Kris Russell Dennis Wideman
Raphael Diaz Deryk Engelland
Goalies
Karri Ramo
Jonas Hiller

Detroit Red Wings
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Darren Helm Pavel Datsyuk Stephen Weiss
Justin Abdelkader Henrik Zetterberg Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar Riley Sheahan Johan Franzen
Drew Miller Luke Glendening Joakim Andersson
Left Defense Right Defense
Jonathan Ericsson Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey Dan DeKeyser
Brendan Smith Xavier Ouellet
Goalies
Petr Mrazek
Jimmy Howard


With Markus Granlund's reassignment to the AHL - a thing that just happened to make room for Backlund - this is the end of his current tenure with the Flames. All things considered, he had a great run, and we'll probably see him back sooner rather than later. Mikael Backlund is way better, though, and way more ready for NHL competition. I bet it takes all of one period before we see him playing the toughest minutes in the top six.

(Corey Potter has been sent down, as well, meaning Ladislav Smid is probably coming off the injured reserve rather soon.)

Meanwhile, after being a healthy scratch for the past two games, Mason Raymond makes his return, while David Jones - who Bob Hartley can't seem to get a handle on (is he a first line right winger? A fourth line right winger? A healthy scratch so Brandon Bollig can play? WHO KNOWS?) - takes a seat.

Karri Ramo is apparently not dead, and allowed to start a game once again; while the Wings, coming off a back-to-back, are playing Petr Mrazek, he of that-overly-excited-adorable-Team-Czech-Republic-World-Juniors-goalie-from-when-they-were-in-Calgary fame, his eighth game of the season.