After a successful road trip through the Eastern Conference, the Calgary Flames are getting ready for a nice stretch of games on home ice. The Flames play seven of their next eight games on home ice with an opportunity to make some hay against a number of opponents below them in the standings. Tonight, however, does not fall in that category as Calgary welcomes the Anaheim Ducks to the Scotiabank Saddledome (7:30 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 36-25-5, 3rd Pacific Division
Despite a successful 4-2-1 road trip, the Flames have gained next to no ground since the departed for their excursion in late February. That’s largely because no one around them has decided to slow down, which largely continued against on Tuesday night. While the Winnipeg Jets lost a heartbreaker in St. Louis, both the LA Kings and Minnesota Wild won convincingly in their outings with Colorado and New Jersey, respectively. So, the Flames sit an extremely impressive 11 games above the .500 mark, yet if they lose in regulation tonight, they’ll find themselves out of a playoff spot once again. It almost doesn’t seem fair.
We’re tracking Calgary’s magic number down the stretch, which is calculated right now to the Kings, as they’re the highest ranked non-playoff team as it stands. Right now, the magic number for the Flames to eliminate LA is 16.5. The goal is to get that number down to zero, and that number drops by one each time Calgary wins in any fashion or the Kings lose in regulation. Anytime either team lose in overtime or a shootout, the number drops by 0.5. So, because LA was victorious last night, the number stays the same. We’ll keep track of this every game day until the end of the season.
The Flames will be without Drew Shore tonight, as Head Coach Bob Hartley says he’s a little “banged up” and won’t be available against the Ducks. The good news, however, is that both Russell and Jooris are good to go. Both players missed practice on Tuesday, but for maintenance reasons only. You can understand why they’d need that maintenance, specifically Russell, who was at his shot-blocking best on the road trip. Injured forward Paul Byron (lower body) won’t play once again tonight, but has resumed skating regularly, so shouldn’t be that far off a returning to action for the first time since February 16th.
It raised a few eyebrows Tuesday when Hartley announced Karri Ramo as tonight’s starter, only because it deviates from the script slightly. All year, Hartley has rode the hot goaltender, and the guy who had positively contributed most recently. Ramo was pulled in the second period of Calgary’s 5-4 shootout loss in Ottawa, which paved the way for Jonas Hiller’s 19 save performance. If it weren’t for Hiller’s work, the Flames wouldn’t have been in the position to mount their incredible comeback, so it seemed like a good bet he’d get the start. Instead, it’s Ramo, who was very strong on the trip, starting six of the seven games. He sits 12-7-1 on the season with a 2.56 goals against average and a 0.914 save percentage.
Anaheim Ducks 42-19-7, 1st Pacific Division
The Ducks were active prior to the March 2nd trade deadline, specifically on their back end. Both Wisniewski and Despres were with different teams prior to the deadline, coming from Columbus and Pittsburgh, respectively. Anaheim also brought in Korbinian Holzer from Toronto, but he’ll sit as a healthy scratch tonight. Up front, Fleischmann was acquired to add a little more depth to their group, and has gotten the immediate boost of playing with Getlzaf and Perry. With Matt Beleskey and Sami Vatanen both on the sidelines, the Ducks are going to get even better prior to the playoffs, which is a pretty scary proposition.
Anaheim enters tonight with losses in their last two games, including a 2-1 setback against Vancouver on Monday night. That was a particularly frustrating loss for the Ducks, as they limited the Canucks to just 16 shots, but could only score once on their 29 attempts on net. That said, this is a team still very much in the President’s Trophy Race, and they’ve won four of their last six games. Entering action tonight, Anaheim sits tied with both Nashville and Montreal for top spot in the NHL with 91 points. When you take into account tiebreakers, the Predators remain number one overall, but that could change tonight.
The Ducks are likely to start John Gibson in net tonight, after Frederik Andersen was tagged with the loss against the Canucks. Gibson was very good in his last start, allowing just one goal on 38 shots against the Montreal Canadiens one week ago. On the season, Gibson sits 9-5-0 with a 2.41 goals against average and a 0.924 save percentage.