Going into their season long six game home stand, the Calgary Flames talked a lot about giving their fans something to cheer about down the stretch. Well, so far so good. Through five games of this stretch on home ice, the Flames are 3-1-1 and they’ve taken points from some pretty good teams. Tonight Calgary has a chance to do some significant damage to the playoff aspirations of the Colorado Avalanche when they hook up for the final time this season (7 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 30-35-5, 6th Pacific Division
Wednesday was another very impressive night for the forward pairing of Frolik and Backlund. Frolik posted his second consecutive three point night in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets; he was responsible for the game winning goal in the first period. As for Backlund, he added two more assists to extend his point streak to four games. Over his last 20 games, Backlund now has 17 points as he’s in one of the best offensive stretches of his career. Colborne was a nice fit there on Wednesday night, too, as he added a goal and an assist in his first game back with Frolik and Backlund in a while.
Calgary found out this afternoon they’ll be without defeneceman Dennis Wideman for the rest of the season with a triceps injury. The injury occurred in the first period of Wednesday’s game in a bizarre sequence that saw him leave clutching his arm. It’s been a rough season for Wideman as he had played just three games after returning from a suspension that saw him miss 19. On the bright side, though, Brodie will return to the lineup after missing three games with what the team called a mid-body injury. Having Brodie back is a big boost knowing he leads the team in average ice time and with 40 points in 58 games has been huge for them offensively. Sam Bennett will miss his fourth straight game with a mid-body injury.
Joni Ortio will make a very deserving seventh consecutive start in net tonight. Ortio made 28 saves against the Jets on Wednesday and has been solid for the large majority of this most recent recall. With a 0.913 save percentage in ten starts, Ortio hasn't been spectacular, but he's at least has given the Flames a chance to win more often than not. He's going to get a rest on Sunday night in Montreal as Calgary will give Nicklas Backstrom his first start since acquiring him from Minnesota at the trade deadline. Overall this season, Ortio sits 4-7-3 with a 2.87 goals against average and a 0.902 save percentage.
Colorado Avalanche 36-31-4, 5th Central Division
The Avalanche enter tonight tenuously strapped into the driver's seat for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Thanks to Minnesota's 7-4 loss to the New Jersey Devils last night, Colorado now has a one point edge on the Wild for the final wildcard spot. Both teams have played 71 games so it's going to be a fight to the finish. The Avalanche took a 3-1 win over Vancouver on Wednesday to move back into the postseason picture and they've won three of four games heading into action this evening.
Colorado will be without forward Matt Duchene tonight as he's going to be sidelined for the next few days with a knee injury. Duchene is the hottest player on the Avalanche right now as he is currently riding a five game point streak. With 12 points in his last 12 games, Duchene had made most of us forget his slow start where he put up just two points over his first ten games. Duchene isn't the only significant player out of Colorado's lineup tonight, either. Gabriel Landeskog will serve the third game of his three game suspension tonight and will be eligible to return against the Oilers on Sunday.
One area that has been strong all season in Colorado has been goaltending. Semyon Varlamov will make the start tonight but both he and Calvin Pickard have been strong this year. Varlamov is still this team's number one, though, and he'll make his 49th start of the season tonight. On the season, Varlamov sits 25-18-3 with a 2.65 goals against average and a 0.917 save percentage.