After an eventful trade deadline, the Calgary Flames will debut one of their new players as their four game road trip continues. Jyrki Jokipakka will makes his Flames debut after being acquired on Monday afternoon in a deal with the Dallas Stars. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom has also joined the team but we’re not exactly sure what the plan is for him in terms of playing time. We’ll see what this new look Calgary team is all about tonight when they visit the Boston Bruins (5 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 26-32-4, 6th Pacific Division
Jokipakka will be paired with Nakladal in his Flames debut as the coaching staff isn’t going to push their newest defenceman into the top four right away. You can expect Jokipakka to be a regular on the Calgary blueline until the end of the season, as he’s been in the NHL for the majority of the last two seasons. In conversation with Jokipakka yesterday, he really likes where his defensive game is, but the offensive side of things is something he really wants to work on. In the role he’ll be put in tonight, putting up points won’t be the main ask, so to start, Jokipakka is going to be put in a situation to succeed. The Flames have returned Tyler Wotherspoon to Stockton of the AHL; he was on emergency recall so had to be returned with Jokipakka being ready to play.
As for the other newest member of the team, we’re not exactly sure what the plan is for Backstrom. The 38-year-old goaltender hasn’t played a game all year but is definitely hoping to get some action upon joining his new team. Backstrom is likely aware the team doesn’t see him in their long term plans, but the upside for him would be to get into a few games down the stretch and showcase himself for a potential job next year. The strangest part of all of this is the fact the Flames are back to having three goaltenders in the fold, which is something we saw at the start of the season. It didn’t work overly well then, so we’ll see if things can function a little better this time around.
Tonight in net, Calgary will go with Joni Ortio between the pipes. This will be Ortio’s fourth start in five games as Jonas Hiller got the call against the Flyers. Hiller did a decent enough job in Philly, but at this point we know what he is. There are more questions about Ortio, and even Backstrom, going forward so the anticipation is we see more of those two down the stretch. This season, Ortio sits 0-5-2 with a 3.54 goals against average and an 0.885 save percentage. Keep in mind, Ortio is also on emergency recall so the team is going to have to decide in the near future whether to send him back to the American League or turn him into a regular recall. NHL teams only get four regular recalls following the trade deadline.
Tonight will be Hathaway’s second NHL game after making his NHL debut yesterday. Hathaway played just under 13 minutes after being recalled earlier in the day. General Manager Brad Treliving said yesterday the team is hoping to recall a number of players from the minors prior to the end of the season. Hathaway is getting his shot right now, but I’d expect names like Freddie Hamilton, Kenny Agostino, and Hunter Shinkaruk to get looks at some point as well.
Boston Bruins 34-23-6, 4th Atlantic Division
The Bruins enter tonight right in the teeth of the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division playoff race. They’ve got a pretty high probability of being postseason bound in the end, but they still have to make sure they take care of their business in their final 19 games. Games like tonight are pretty important for the Bruins; Boston enters tonight with an 18 point edge on the their opposition, so getting the job done against teams like this are pretty important. The Bruins sit one point back of Detroit for third in the Atlantic and four back of Tampa and Florida for top spot. That said, they’re also just five points away from falling out of the playoff picture altogether.
Boston was a busy group on deadline day as they added a pair of players and stood pat on another. Both Stempniak and Liles will make their Boston debuts tonight after being acquired from the Devils and the Hurricanes, respectively. Liles gives the Bruins some defensive depth while Stempniak adds a versatile forward who can score, and who has scored a lot this season. The Bruins did not trade Eriksson, however, which was a surprise to some. The pending UFA forward could very well be re-signed and is a big part of the group right now, so it’s not the most surprising thing in the world.
We’re not sure who gets the call in net for the Bruins tonight, but the expectation is we’ll see Tuukka Rask make his 47th start of the season. Rask has gotten some nice help from backup Jonas Gustavsson this season, but there’s no question the former remains the solidified number one. This season, Rask sits 24-18-5 with a 2.56 goals against average and a 0.917 save percentage.