The Calgary Flames are back on the rollercoaster. After a much needed 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, the Flames fell down early and couldn’t dig all the way back in a 5-2 loss to Carolina on Sunday. In the second half of a tough back-to-back, Calgary will conclude their four game road trip tonight as they take on the Dallas Stars for the final time this season (6:30 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).Calgary Flames 21-22-3, 6th Pacific Division
Sunday saw the Flames put together another incomplete effort that saw them fall down 3-0 in the first 24 minutes of the hockey game. Despite a nice push, specifically in the third period, Calgary was unable to come all the way back. It was the first period that really did the Flames in, as Head Coach Bob Hartley said his team “wasn’t ready to play”. Yes, the Flames were very good in comeback scenarios last year, but continually putting themselves in that situation this season is not a recipe for longterm success. They’ll need a much better start tonight against a very good Dallas group.
On the bright side, Calgary has enjoyed some decent success against the Stars this year. Tonight is the third and final meeting between the two teams with the Flames looking to sweep the season series. Calgary has actually played some good hockey against Dallas this year, including a 3-1 win back on December 17th at the American Airlines Center. Calgary has their issues, but they do thrive in scenarios where things are a little more wide open. Against a Stars group that isn’t necessarily the league’s best defending team, the Flames have got an opportunity to make life difficult on their opposition once again.
Once again, Calgary got another strong night from their second line centred by Backlund. They didn’t end up on the scoresheet, but that group did have eight points combined in three games heading into yesterday’s game. The scoring came from Granlund’s line last night, and specifically from Colborne. Colborne finished with a goal and an assist in Carolina in just a little under eight minutes of ice time, which has to be good for his mindset. It’s been a struggle of late for Colborne and he’s spent some time in the press box so finishing with a couple of points could be a nice boost for him. The Flames will make one change tonight as they’ll bring Engelland back into the lineup in place of Ladislav Smid.
Calgary will go right back to Karri Ramo between the pipes tonight after he was yanked early in the second period yesterday. Ramo allowed three goals on 19 shots but that was more to preserve him for tonight as opposed to punishing him for his performance. Jonas Hiller allowed two goals on 17 shots in relief, so it's not like he shut the door either. Ramo sure does look installed as the number one guy for the time being, even if the coaching staff won't come out and say it. On the season, Ramo sits 16-15-1 with a 2.66 goals against average and a 0.909 save percentage.
Dallas Stars 30-14-5, 2nd Central Division
The calendar year of 2016 has been dreadful for the Stars. Since the start of January, Dallas has gone just 2-6-3 and they've seen their relatively comfortable turn into a five point deficit to the Chicago Blackhawks. There's been some frustrating moments during this stretch, including a 3-1 setback to Colorado on Saturday night. Despite outshooting the Avalanche 43-15, Dallas allowed a pair of shorthanded goals and ran into a red hot Semyon Varlamov in net. That said, this is still an extremely dangerous group that should be a rather ornery and determined bunch tonight.
Regardless of their struggles, Dallas is still the league's most terrifying offensive team. They sit second in the league averaging 3.22 goals per game which correlates nicely with their average of 32.3 shots per game, also second in the league. With 110 points combined for Benn and Seguin, we know the type of high end the Stars are able to throw at you. But when you factor 39 points each from Sharp and Klingberg and 38 from Spezza, it starts to paint a better picture of Dallas's offensive depth. As such, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see the Stars sit fourth in the league with a powerplay clicking at 21.6%.
For a third straight game, the Stars will turn to Antti Niemi in net tonight. Niemi has been given a slightly larger workload than his teammate Kari Lehtonen; the former will be making his 29th start of the season while Lehtonen has made 21 starts this year. Lehtonen's numbers were better for quite some time, but during this miserable run, those have come back down to earth while Niemi has taken over the number one role. Niemi sits 17-9-5 on the season with a 2.47 goals against average and a 0.911 save percentage.