Calgary Flames @ Florida Panthers, 5:00 PM MT, BB&T Center, Sunrise FL
Radio: Sportsnet 960
Calgary Flames 34-16-6 (74) - Florida Panthers 23-24-8 (54)
Game number three of a four game road trip sees the Flames in Sunrise Florida to do battle with the Florida Panthers Thursday night. The Flames have dropped four out of their last five games including a current three game skid. Calgary has lost it’s grip on the top spot in the West and Pacific and the teams below them are coming hard and fast. The Flames could use a win Thursday night to get back on track and loses by San Jose and Winnipeg would put the Flames right back on top of the division and conference. But the Flames have to win first, something they have been struggling to do as of late. All teams go through losing streaks during the season, so what is happening now isn’t unprecedented, but it has happened before. Calgary’s season kerploded last year after the mandated break and things aren’t going so swimmingly this time around either. The difference this time around is Calgary is a much better team and they built a nice little lead that while it has evaporated, still provided them with some room for error.
The Panthers come into this contest 3-3-0 in their last six, having won two of those games in overtime. Florida overcame a horrendous start (lost eight of their first ten) to make run towards playoff respectability, but a seven game losing streak to start the new year may have done them in. The Panthers sit in 7th place in the WC standings, which if they were in the West would give them some hope, but they aren’t. Florida’s 54 points sees them 13 points behind the resurgent Penguins for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
These two last played on January 11th with the Flames taking the contest 4-3 at the Saddledome. David Rittich got the start and the win in that game, but it would appear Mike Smith will get the start tonight in Sunrise. Rittich has struggled over his last few starts and a day off might not hurt the Flames starter as he can assess his game while Smith gets to knock some of the rust off.
The Flames have enjoyed visiting the Panthers as of late, having won four of the last five times that they’ve traveled to the swamp. A win tonight would be the third sweep of the Panthers since the league went to the home and home format for Eastern and Western Conference teams.
Starting Goalies (E=Expected, C=Confirmed)
Flames: Smith (E)- 14-11-1, 3.11 GAA, .889 Save%
Panthers: Luongo (E)- 12-13-1, 3.14 GAA, .895 Save%
Flames: Goals- Gaudreau (29), Points- Gaudreau (77), PIM- Bennett (72), Save%- Rittich (.911)
Panthers: Goals- Hoffman (25), Points- Barkov (53), PIM- Weegar (46), Save%- Reimer (.898)
What’s Happening With The Opposition?
Florida Panthers Coverage: Litter Box Cats
Last Time Out
Calgary Flames 3 - Tampa Bay Lightning 6
Florida Panthers 0 - Dallas Stars 3
Players To Watch
Elias Lindholm (C): 24G - 40A, 23 points in last 16 games
Aleksander Barkov (C): 19G - 34A, 4 points in last 4 games