The first half of the season has not good exactly according to plan for the Calgary Flames. With high expectations coming into the season, seeing the Flames only at the .500 mark through 40 games of the 2015-2016 campaign is slightly disappointing. That said, Calgary is in a mediocre division and is still very much in the playoff race. They can finish off the first half of the season above the .500 mark with a win tonight when they welcome the San Jose Sharks (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 19-19-2, 6th Pacific Division
The quest to find the right fit on Calgary’s top line continues tonight with Ferland being given a shot with Gaudreau and Monahan. Jiri Hudler was the man with those two for the vast majority of last season, but that hasn’t been the case this year. Not only is Hudler on the shelf right now with a groin injury, he also hasn’t been anywhere near as effective on the top line this season either. Ferland has been playing some really good hockey of late in a head-to-head role with Backlund, and now will get a shot to get things going a little more offensively. In 32 games this year, Ferland has one goal and six points.
Ferland’s promotion to the top trio drops Colborne down the depth chart and also seems some other shuffles for the Flames. Bouma will try his hand with Backlund and Jones on a line that will see a good chunk of either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau tonight. The pairing of Granlund and Bennett stays together with Jooris getting rewarded for his strong play on the right side. Finally, the fourth line will see Bollig return after missing the last three games as a healthy scratch. Mason Raymond looks to be the odd man out tonight.
There might be some good news on the horizon for Calgary. Michael Frolik rejoined practice over the weekend and is closing in on a return from an upper body injury. Frolik has definitely been missed during this stretch; he'll miss his 12th consecutive game tonight. Prior to going down, Frolik was one of the team's most consistent two way forwards and was also one of their top producers offensively. Even still, Frolik is seventh on the team in scoring despite not having played a game since December 15th in Nashville.
Karri Ramo makes his 12th straight start in net tonight, and he's coming off one heck of a performance on Thursday night. Ramo made 31 saves as the Flames fell 2-1 at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes and he was strong from start to finish. Personally, I think his outing against the Coyotes was one of his most impressive of the season and he gave his team a chance to come away with a win even without playing one of their stronger games. During this 11 game run in net, Ramo's save percentage is up to 0.937. On the season, Ramo sits 15-13-1 with a 2.52 goals against average and a 0.914 save percentage.
San Jose Sharks 19-18-2, 5th Pacific Division
The Sharks likely enter tonight feeling pretty good about things after their 7-0 beatdown of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. All in all, though, this season has been an up and down one in San Jose. Saturday's win came after a disappointing 2-1 home loss to the Red Wings on Thursday. That up and down nature sums up the last few weeks for the Sharks, as they sit 3-3-1 over their last seven games. San Jose has played the fewest games in the NHL, so they still sit in decent shape in the Pacific. That said, they're going to have to start playing a little north of .500 to really make a move.
Pavelski leads San Jose in scoring as one of the most consistent performers of the last five years continues to get the job done with 40 points in 39 games thus far. He's followed by Burns off the blueline, as the All Star defender is right there with Pavelski at 37 points. Things drop off a little from there, though, as Marleau and Thornton sit at 29 points followed by Ward at 25. It's a pretty balanced group offensively with the scoring spread around pretty nicely; they sit ninth in the NHL averaging 2.77 goals per game.
The Sharks look set to give Martin Jones his 34th start of the season in net tonight. While Jones hasn't been incredible, he's certainly proven to be the more reliable option in comparison to Alex Stalock. In just his first season as a true NHL starter, Jones has gone 17-13-2 with a 2.42 goals against average and a 0.913 save percentage. But while Ramo has surged of late for Calgary, Jones has had his issues. In his last 12 starts, Jones has gone 5-5-2 with a much less impressive 0.895 save percentage.