While Thursday night’s 4-2 win for the Calgary Flames in Columbus wasn’t anything to write home about, it is something they can build on. Thursday saw the Flames win on the road for just the seventh time all season, which needs to be used as a building block. On top of that, Calgary beat a team they needed to beat. The Blue Jackets are the NHL’s worst team and the Flames made sure they got two points against them, which was really the only thing that mattered. Calgary will look to build on Thursday’s win tonight when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes (4 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 21-21-3, 6th Pacific Division
The Flames will be without Micheal Ferland tonight after he left Thursday’s win over Columbus in the second period and did not return. Ferland is officially out with an upper body injury, but the good news is it doesn’t sound like he’ll be out for very long. Ferland had found a nice fit on Calgary’s top line with Gaudreau and Monahan, and he’s also been a nice boost to the team’s somewhat punchless powerplay. Jones will move up to take Ferland’s spot on the top line, a role he’s been in at different times this season.
Ferland’s temporary exit from he lineup paves the way for Lance Bouma to return. Bouma has missed the last four games with a laceration on his leg suffered just under two weeks ago in a game against the San Jose Sharks. The injury ended up being fairly minor, all things considered, as Bouma didn’t suffer any tendon damage and just had to wait for the cut to heal. Knowing that the feeling was he might miss a longer period of time, seeing Bouma return after missing four games is a positive. Ferland has been placed on IR retroactive to Thursday which allows Bouma to be activated in time for tonight’s game. Jooris and Smid also return to the lineup while Brandon Bollig, Mason Raymond, and Deryk Engelland will all sit as healthy scratches.
Once again, the line of Backlund, Bennett, and Frolik is a huge talking point. The trio combined for three goals and five points against Columbus and were extremely involved offensively. Right now, the Flames have the ability to put this line out in toe-to-toe situations against top opposition players while they’re also able to count on some decent offence as well. Bennett’s groove right now is significant. Calgary’s rookie forward has eight goals over his last five games, making him the first player to do that with the team since Jarome Iginla back in March and April of 2011.
Karri Ramo gets the start in net for the second straight night after making 27 saves against the Blue Jackets. Ramo got a nice rest prior to that as Jonas Hiller took the reins for a three game span, but it sure does seem like Ramo will be the guy getting the bulk of the starts down the stretch. With his rest of late, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ramo go tomorrow in Dallas, either, and things set up well for him to get the call on a nightly basis until the All Star break. Ramo sits 16-14-1 this season with a 2.59 goals against average and a 0.910 save percentage.
Carolina Hurricanes 21-20-8, 6th Metropolitan Division
Carolina has been one of the bigger surprises this season, and they tend to make life extremely difficult on their opposition. This is a very defensively sound and group that looks to be very much going in the right direction under second year Head Coach Bill Peters. The Hurricanes lead the NHL in shots against, allowing just 26.4 per game, which illustrates just how difficult they can be to play against. Carolina is one of the league’s top possession teams, boasting a 53.2% offensive possession rate. That puts them fifth in the league and bodes very well for the future.
The ‘Canes have two big problems right now, though. First is a lack of offensive punch. While they are extremely stingy and defensively sound, they don’t score very much. As players like Lindholm and Rask continue to develop, and as they acquire players from elsewhere, that scoring issue should likely become less of a problem. For the rest of this season, though, Carolina is going to struggle to score at a high rate. Faulk is this team’s leading scorer off the blueline with an impressive 33 points, but the Staal brothers and Skinner haven’t put up great offensive totals, contributing to the problem.
The other large issue for the Hurricanes is their goaltending. Being number one in the league for shots against should not correlate to 20th in goals against. The duo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack have been average at best this season with the former outperforming the latter. Even being the better of the two, Ward has been just okay and he is sidelined with a concussion right now. Lack will likely get the start tonight as he looks to improve on his pedestrian season totals to date. Lack sits 7-9-3 with a 2.85 goals against average and an 0.896 save percentage in his first season with Carolina.