All good things must come to an end, including franchise record home winning streaks. The Calgary Flames had their string of home ice wins snapped at 11 on Tuesday night in a 1-0 setback at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. The Flames were controlled virtually start to finish by a very determined Ducks group, and they face a similar test tonight. Calgary rings in 2016 this evening with a date against the red hot Los Angeles Kings (7 pm, Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 17-17-2, 5th Pacific Division
The Flames struggled to fight through Anaheim’s tight checking, physical game on Tuesday night and were limited to very few scoring chances as a result. Hockeystats.ca counted five Calgary scoring chances overall, and just five of those coming at even strength. The Ducks did a very nice job of disrupting the Flames and their speed game through the neutral zone and created numerous turnovers in the process. Anaheim was especially effective against the Gaudreau trio, as they were kept at bay for the majority of the contest. Calgary needs to learn some lessons, specifically in puck management, from Tuesday’s game and apply it to a very similar team in the Kings tonight.
Speaking of Gaudreau, he’s been a big focus since Tuesday’s setback. The Ducks certainly went out of their way to make life difficult on Calgary’s super sophomore, in more ways that one. Not only did they do a nice job positionally against him on the ice, they also did their best to throw him off his game physically. On multiple occasions, Ryan Kesler or another member of the Ducks made their presence known to Gaudreau with a slash or a shove. Gaudreau is taking it all in stride, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see LA employ similar tactics this evening.
It looks like the Flames will go with the same lineup as they went with against the Ducks. That means Bollig will play his second game back after missing seven straight as a healthy scratch. Head Coach Bob Hartley put Bollig back in the lineup to help combat Anaheim’s physicality, but he played next to no part in the outcome of the game. If Bollig wants to stay in the lineup, he’s going to have to be far more of a presence tonight, because he wasn’t very effective two nights ago.
Karri Ramo certainly did his part against the Ducks, as he stopped all but one shot thrown his way. The one goal that beat him came at the end of a nice Anaheim sequence that had every Calgary player on the ice running around. Shawn Horcoff finished the play beating Ramo to the far side of the net thanks to a very nice Rikard Rackell pass. Ramo makes his eighth straight start tonight and sits 13-11-1 on the season with a 2.68 goals against average and a 0.908 save percentage.
Los Angeles Kings 23-11-2, 1st Pacific Division
Many thought the Kings were poised to bounce back from their disappointing non-playoff finish last season. Those people look to be right. Los Angeles is running away with the Pacific Division right now, as they enter tonight with a ten point lead on the second place San Jose Sharks. The Kings enter tonight riding a three game winning streak, and they’ll try to conclude this four game road trip with eight of a possible eight points. So far, LA has taken wins in Arizona, Vancouver, and Edmonton on this trip before rolling into Calgary for their first meeting this season with the Flames.
There’s one big question mark for the Kings tonight in terms of their lineup, and that’s the status of Jeff Carter. LA’s number two centre has missed the last two games with an upper body injury and his status for this evening is up in the air. Carter skated this morning but did not go through regular line rushes. The lines above are what the kings went with in Tuesday’s 5-5 win over the Oilers. That game saw the season debut of King who had sat out LA’s first 36 games with a foot injury. He wasted no time making an impact, too, as King opened the scoring at 4:22 of the first period. His return gives LA some much needed depth up front, coming off a 26 point season last year.
Jonathan Quick is your likely starter for the Kings tonight, meaning he’ll go for the third time in four nights. Quick has had a nice season and has bounced from a year where he struggled, at least by his standards. This year, however, Quick is very much back to the form we’re used to from him. He sits 20-9-1 on the season with a 2.20 goals against average and a 0.921 save percentage.