With the situation the Calgary Flames are in right now, wins seem big but losses seem even bigger. The Flames have won four of their last six games, and that’s allowed them to make up a slight amount of ground in the Western Conference playoff chase. But thanks to a 4-1 loss in Arizona on Friday night and results over the weekend, Calgary enters action today eight points out of a playoff spot. The simple fact is the Flames can’t lose a lot of hockey games the rest of the season if they want to keep their slim hopes alive. Calgary will look to bounce back this afternoon when they play host to the Anaheim Ducks (2 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 25-26-3, 6th Pacific Division
Despite the fact they’ve picked up some points since the All Star break, the Flames have left a lot to be desired with their play. Calgary was fairly fortunate to pick up wins against Toronto and San Jose and that caught up to them against the Coyotes on Friday. The Flames have been on their heels far too much in recent memory, as their possession numbers have been rather emphatically in the red more often than not lately. Winning the possession battle doesn’t always equate to winning an individual game, but on a larger scale, losing it is not typically a recipe for success. No one is going to confuse Calgary with a top end puck possession team, but to be routinely in the 35-40% range has to be fixed down the stretch.
The Flames have yet to give any definitive word on injured goaltender Karri Ramo. The pending unrestricted free agent is set to be examined later this week when we should have a better idea of his prognosis. Again, the outlook is not very good and all indications point to this being a long term injury, but until it’s official the door is always open for good news. After struggling against Arizona on Friday, Calgary is counting on a much better effort from Jonas Hiller today as he makes his second straight start and fourth in five games. Hiller sits 8-6-1 this season with a 3.04 goals against average and an 0.894 save percentage.
The injury news is a little more positive up front. Jones will return to the lineup after missing Friday’s game with a lower body injury. Knowing the injury past of Jones, there are certainly some who were worried he might miss more time. That said, and to his credit, Jones has been very durable this season and is on track for a career high in games played. Friday was the first game missed this season for Jones putting him on pace for 81 games; his previous career high was 77 during the 2011-2012 season in Colorado.
We’re not exactly sure what the lineup is going to look like this afternoon, but we can do some guess work going on Sunday afternoon’s practice. With Jones returning, it looks like Josh Jooris will sit out as a healthy scratch alongside Markus Granlund. After getting back in for a pair of games, Granlund was sat down once again in Arizona; if he sits tonight, it’ll be the fourth time in six games Granlund has sat as a healthy scratch. Head Coach Bob Hartley did confirm there will be no changes on the blueline, meaning Jakub Nakladal will be the healthy scratch once again.
Anaheim Ducks 27-19-8, 3rd Pacific Division
I’m not sure exactly what the Ducks wished for this Christmas, but if it was a red hot 21 game stretch, they got just that. After a dreadful start to the season, Anaheim has seemingly flipped the switch. Since Christmas, they’ve gone 15-4-2 which has allowed them to move into third spot in the Pacific and within seven points of the division-leading LA Kings. In reality, this team was too good to continue stumbling along like they did through the first two months of the season, so a run like this isn’t really surprising. The Ducks won their first overtime game of the season on Saturday night as they took a well deserved 3-2 win over Chicago at the United Center. This team has been very good on the road of late, too; Anaheim has points in ten of their last 11 games away from Orange County
Much like the team, certain individuals really had their struggles to start the season. Also much like the team, those certain individuals have seemingly turned the corner. Getzlaf leads the way, as he enters action today with 19 points over his last 15 games. Now, only three of those points are goals, but he did score the game winner against Chicago on Saturday night. Perry has four goals and ten points in his last ten games while newcomer Perron is also going at a point-per-game pace in his last ten games. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Anaheim’s uptick comes at the same time as these nice runs, specifically from Perry and Getzlaf.
Anaheim’s goaltending situation is somewhat up in the air right now. John Gibson was injured and left Saturday’s win in Chicago after 40 minutes; he was replaced by Frederik Andersen for the remainder of the game. Gibson’s status, however, is uncertain for today because there is a thought he may be able to dress. Nonetheless, Gibson’s injury is thought to be of the short term variety, but just in case, the team has recalled Anton Khudobin from San Diego of the American League. Andersen is likely to get the start this afternoon; he’s 12-8-6 this season with a 2.30 goals against average and a 0.919 save percentage.