Calgary Flames (13-10-3) at Columbus Blue Jackets (8-15-2), 5:00 PM MT
The Calgary Flames kick off a three game road trip tonight coming off of a very successful homestand, winning four of five games including three in a row to close it out. Tonight they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets and of course the main storyline of the game is that this is the first meeting between the Flames and longtime franchise face Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau made the decision to leave Calgary in free agency during the summer, and there were mixed reactions in amongst the Flames fanbase. Tonight will be a good opportunity for Flames fans to get their emotions figured before Gaudreau returns to Calgary on January 23. Gaudreau has had a solid start to the season with 28 points in 25 games for Columbus.
It has been a disappointing season for the rest of the Blue Jackets as they languish in a tie for 31st overall in the NHL standings. They suffered a disappointing loss in their lineup early in the season when Zach Werenski went down with a season-ending injury. They also have Jake Bean, Adam Boqvist, Justin Danforth, and Jakub Voracek out with injury. Calgary should look to capitalize on an especially weakened defence core where Erik Gudbranson is arguably the best remaining player. Also hello again to Erik Gudbranson.
On the Flames side of things, the biggest storyline has to be the call-up of Matthew Phillips to the big club after torching the AHL so far with 30 points in 20 games. Latest indications are that he will start on the fourth line, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some time on the second powerplay unit as well.
Calgary is currently rolling with three straight victories including an impressive 5-3 win over Minnesota on Wednesday. As a whole the Flames have won six straight against Columbus and has recorded at least a point in every game at Nationwide Arena since 2014.
All signs are pointing to Jacob Markstrom start tonight for Calgary, leaving tomorrow’s game against Toronto to Dan Vladar which makes sense given their recent performances. This game is an absolute must-win for Calgary as they take on a weakened Columbus team that was already bad to begin with. Anything less than a victory would be a major disappointment.