Was Markus Granlund just the beginning of the exodus for the Calgary Flames? The Flames dealt Granlund to Vancouver on Monday afternoon in exchange for Hunter Shinkaruk in the first of what could be numerous pre-deadline trades. Calgary plays three games prior to Monday’s deadline and many expect the team to be very active in advance. For now, though, the Flames will look to get back on the winning side of things when they visit the Los Angeles Kings (8:30 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 26-29-3, 6th Pacific Division
Monday’s trade with Vancouver won’t have much of an impact on the lineup right now. Granlund has been a healthy scratch in six of Calgary’s last ten games and has been a relatively ineffective player for much of the season. Shinkaruk, on the other hand, was assigned to Stockton of the American League immediately following the trade. With 39 points in 45 games for the AHL’s Utica Comets, Shinkaruk has shown he can put up points at the professional level. The next question is whether he’ll be able to do that in the NHL. We won’t get to find that out right away, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Shinkaruk get some NHL playing time once the deadline has passed.
We don’t expect yesterday’s trade to be Calgary’s last prior to Monday’s deadline. Right now, most of the focus right now is on potential unrestricted free agents. Kris Russell is one of those players, but he will not be in the lineup tonight. Russell will miss his fifth straight game with a lower body injury, but is inching closer to a return; he took part in today’s morning skate. While some wonder if Russell’s injury will prevent the Flames from making a trade with him involved, everything suggests this is a minor ailment that should be figured out soon.
For the first time since October 30th of this season, Calgary will go with Joni Ortio between the pipes tonight. This snaps a string of five straight starts for Jonas Hiller as he's taken the reins in net since Karri Ramo's injury. Hiller hasn't really impressed, though, so the coaching staff chose tonight to turn to Ortio. For Ortio, he needs to take this opportunity and run with it because his future is far from solidified for next season. Ortio has had a very unimpressive season at both the NHL and AHL level this year, so he's going to need to play at a much higher level whenever he gets his opportunities. At the NHL level, Ortio sits 0-3-1 with a 4.14 goals against average and an 0.862 save percentage.
The Flames are coming off a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. The loss didn't come for lack of trying or effort. Instead, it was just very evident that Calgary isn't at Anaheim's level right now. For the Flames to win games against high end teams, they're going to need to play a nearly flawless game themselves while also hoping for an off night from the opposition. That will be very much the same narrative tonight against the Pacific Division leading Kings.
Los Angeles Kings 34-20-4, 1st Pacific Division
Perhaps being so far ahead of everyone has lulled the Kings into a false sense of security. What was once a double digit lead over basically everyone in the Pacific has now dwindled to just two points on the Ducks and three points on the Sharks. While the teams chasing them have definitely surged, LA has helped matters out by slipping into a bit of a malaise. It's not that the Kings have been bad, it's more that they just haven't been really good either. Since the calendar flipped to 2016, LA has gone 10-9-2 over a 21 game span. That's not awful, but it certainly doesn't hold up well when compared to a mark of 24-11-2 prior to that.I don't think anyone is worried about LA, but now would probably be the time to see the urgency meter start to rise again.
The Kings will get some good news tonight as Kopitar looks poised to return to the lineup. Kopitar missed Saturday's 2-1 overtime win over Nashville with a lower body injury, but he took part in morning skate and looks good to go against the Flames. Throughout his NHL career, Kopitar has proven to be one of the most durable players in league. Kopitar already had already set a franchise record previously in his career with 330 consecutive games played; Saturday's game missed was just his first of the season. Jordan Nolan is a question mark for tonight up front with an undisclosed injury while Marian Gaborik remains on the shelf long term with a knee injury.
For the 48th time this season, the Kings will turn to Jonathan Quick in net. Much like his entire team, Quick has had the bounce back season everyone was expecting. Even during LA's fairly average year of 2016 so far, Quick has posted a 0.917 save percentage and continues to do his part. Overall this season, Quick sits 29-15-3 with a 2.19 goals against average and a 0.920 save percentage.