The message sent by the Calgary Flames has sunk in for the three players it was sent to. The Flames elected to sit Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Lance Bouma as healthy scratches on Tuesday night for disciplinary reasons. It was a strong message and one that created a great deal of buzz, and now it’s time to see how the players respond. Without those three regular forwards, Calgary took a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs two nights ago. The Flames kick off a quick back-to-back set on the road tonight when they visit the San Jose Sharks (8:30 pm, Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 24-25-3, 6th Pacific Division
All three Flames players addressed Tuesday night’s decision the following day and all three of them owned it and took responsibility. Now the biggest question is how they will respond, both in tonight’s game against the Sharks and in the long term. For Gaudreau and Monahan, they return to their regular spots on Calgary’s top line with Hudler. We’re expecting Bouma to return to the lineup as well, although Head Coach Bob Hartley said there are still a few lineup changes to be made closer to game time. We’re expecting. As it stands right now, it looks like Josh Jooris, Brandon Bollig, and Jakub Nakladal will be the healthy scratches for Calgary tonight.
Hopefully the Flames have burned the game tape from Tuesday night and have kept only the two points they earned in the victory. That performance against the Maple Leafs was not a strong one, but some shoddy opposing goaltending and some opportunistic scoring allowed them to hold on for a 4-3 win. Now, knowing the circumstance the team was in without three regular forwards, Calgary will the two points and run. That said, they'll need to be a whole lot better against a much more difficult opponent tonight.
Even though it was a rather lacklustre performance two nights ago, there were a few solid performances lead by Granlund's two point night. Granlund was named the game's first start after opening the scoring with a shorthanded breakaway goal in the first period; he assisted on Hamilton's eventual game winning goal in the latter stages of the second period. Tuesday was Granlund's first multi-point game of the season as he certainly took advantage of Calgary's unexpected lineup changes. Granlund had been a healthy scratch for three straight games but will play for a second straight night in San Jose.
After making back-to-back 30-plus save performances, Jonas Hiller will not get the start tonight against the Sharks. Instead, Karri Ramo will return to the crease in a very interesting situation. Ramo has sat the last couple of games and his team enters a back-to-back set tonight and then again tomorrow in Arizona. With some decent rest, I don't think it'll be a surprise to see Ramo play both of these games on the road, specifically if he wins tonight. On the season, Ramo is 17-18-1 with a 2.65 goals against average and a 0.911 save percentage.
San Jose Sharks 28-20-4, 2nd Pacific Division
It's been quite the run for the Sharks of late. With a record of 10-2-2 over their last 14 games, San Jose has moved into second in the Pacific and have put a little heat on the LA Kings for top spot. The Sharks are getting production up and down their lineup and have served as a surprise to many with their strong play this season. San Jose snapped a string of ten straight seasons in the playoffs when they missed out last year. As such, they were not a team talked about as a potential frontrunner in the division this year, yet here they are very much deserving of their spot. The Sharks are coming off a 2-0 win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
With two more points in Chicago, Thornton's run of games over the last two months or so has been pretty awesome, too. Thornton has registered points in 21 of his last 23 games and sits second on the team with 46 points in 52 games. The only man ahead of him is his linemate Pavelski who leads the team in both goals and points with 25 and 52, respectively. San Jose is getting decent offence from their second line and finally has had a healthy Couture in the lineup for an extended stretch of time; both are big reasons the team has played at the high level they have in recent weeks.
In terms of San Jose's lineup tonight, the team will be without defenceman Brenden Dillon thanks to an upper body injury this evening. The only other significant change for the Sharks will be in net as they'll give Alex Stalock the start tonight after Martin Jones made 33 saves in a 2-0 shutout win over Chicago two nights ago. Stalock hasn't given San Jose great goaltending in relief this year, so this is an opportunity for him to really make a statement prior to the trade deadline. Stalock is 3-5-1 this season with a 2.76 goals against average and an 0.894 save percentage.