After an impressive 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, the Calgary Flames are looking to do something they haven’t done in more than a month. The last time the Flames won consecutive games as at the beginning of January when they triumphed over the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, sitting eight points back of a playoff spot, Calgary needs to make sure they build on Saturday’s victory tonight when they play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 23-25-3, 6th Pacific Division
For the Flames to have any hope of salvaging the final 31 games of their season, they can’t wait any longer to start stringing wins together. After a solid month of December that saw Calgary set a new home ice record for consecutive wins, the team has been mediocre at best since the Christmas break. Their chances of completely tracking down and eventually overtaking teams like Anaheim, Colorado, and Minnesota are slim but not completely out of the question where things stand right now. But if they wait very much longer, those chances are going to go from slim to none. Against a beatable, and beat up, team tonight, the Flames need to make sure they take advantage.
Hudler is getting hot at the right time for both himself and the team. Hudler's assist on Monahan's eventual game winner on Saturday night gave him his sixth point in six games and marks his best stretch in a number of months. We don't know what the future holds for Hudler beyond this season, because there are a number of options. He could be traded prior to the deadline, he could sign somewhere else in free agency, or he could re-sign with Calgary. Regardless of what his top choice is, his play of late is going to help his case. If he can play like this for the rest of the season, or at least until the deadline, his case is only going to get better.
We're not exactly sure what tonight's lineup is going to look like. The lines above are what was shown at morning skate, and yet there are rumblings that the team might be making some changes today. Head Coach Bob Hartley was not happy with Monday's practice and really wants his team focused on what he believes is a crucial week. Stay tuned closer to game time to see if the team does change anything from above. On the back end, those pairings are likely what we'll see this evening, meaning Jakub Nakladal will sit as a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game.
After a solid 34 save performance against the Canucks, Jonas Hiller has earned himself a second consecutive start tonight. While he wasn't tested a great deal on those 35 shots, Hiller was still very good in Calgary's win and he more than deserves his shot against Toronto. With the team playing back-to-back games on the road later this week, he might very well be back in action against either San Jose or Arizona regardless of his performance tonight. With his win on Saturday, Hiller pushed his record to 6-5-1 with a 3.01 goals against average and an 0.890 save percentage.
Toronto Maple Leafs 19-23-9, 8th Atlantic Division
Well, no one really saw it coming, but the biggest story surrounding tonight's game comes from the visitors. The Leafs have traded captain Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa along with Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert, and Cody Donaghey in exchange for Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg, and a 2017 second round pick. In terms of tonight's lineup, the only subtraction will be Phaneuf who will be replaced by Marincin; none of the players acquired from the Senators will make it in time for tonight's game. Head Coach Mike Babcock has confirmed the Leafs will not name a captain for the rest of the season with Phaneuf no longer in the fold.
Toronto won't have Phaneuf in the lineup tonight, obviously, but he's not the only big name out this evening. Already without James van Riemsdyk long term thanks to a broken foot, Toronto will also be without number one centre Tyler Bozak this evening along with Shawn Matthias and Joffrey Lupul. Bozak will likely join the Leafs later on the trip but is set to miss tonight's game with an illness; Matthias will miss out with whiplash and Lupul is sidelined with a mid-body injury. That's a big chunk out of Toronto's group of forwards, and in van Riemsdyk and Bozak, it robs the team of two of their top three scorers. In their absence, Arcobello, Leivo, and Clune have all been recalled from the Marlies of the American Hockey League.
James Reimer gets the start in net as he looks to continue on as one of Toronto's brightest performers this season. Making his 26th of the season, Reimer boasts a record above the .500 mark and his 0.929 save percentage ties him for sixth in the NHL in that category among goalies with 20 or more starts. We're not sure whether Reimer's future is in Toronto or elsewhere, but we do know that wherever he plays next season he'll have leverage before signing a contract. Overall this year, Reimer has a 10-9-6 mark with a 2.23 goals against average and a 0.929 save percentage.