The Calgary Flames have a big opportunity tonight. As they get set to host the Los Angeles Kings, the Flames have the chance to really bury a divisional opponent. Calgary enters action tonight nine points up on the Kings and if they can push that bulge to 11, things get even more comfortable. The Flames and Kings play three more times this season and we’ll see the first of those tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome (7:30 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 40-27-4, 4th Pacific Division
With a regulation win tonight, Calgary can drop their magic number from eight to six and get that much closer to a postseason spot. The last time these two teams met was back on February 28th when the Flames took a 2-1 overtime win at the Scotiabank Saddledome to extend their winning streak to five games at the time. It’s a pretty good bet tonight’s game will be of a similar variety: not a lot of goals, not a lot of chances, but a really hard fought affair on both sides. The Kings are in desperation mode while Calgary enters tonight back in fourth in the division after both Anaheim and Edmonton won their games last night.
You’ll notice Micheal Ferland’s name absent from the lines above as will not play tonight and is under observation for the mumps. With Ferland sitting out tonight, Alex Chiasson will take his place on a line with Monahan and Gaudreau while Lazar will make his Calgary debut since being acquired at the trade deadline. It’s not an unfamiliar spot for Chiasson, as he spent a good chunk of time on that same line earlier in the season.
Lazar has been nothing but patient since being brought in from Ottawa at the beginning of the month. He’s been a healthy scratch in the last seven games but is understandably champing at the bit to make his debut. Lazar’s season in Ottawa was a frustrating one as he has just one assist in 33 games so far this season. Going back to deadline day, though, Lazar feels like a change of scenery is exactly what he needs to get things back on track. Lazar will start with on a line with Bennett and Bouma; Bennett got swapped with Stajan midway through Friday’s win over Dallas and it looks like that theme will continue this evening.
Looking to tie a franchise record, Brian Elliott will get the start in net for the Flames this evening. Elliott looks to extend his personal win streak to 11 games tonight, which would tie Mike Vernon’s franchise mark set back in the 1988-1989 season. During his ten game win streak, Elliott has a superb 0.944 save percentage and he has been the central reason to Calgary’s 16-3-1 run over their last 20 games. On the season, Elliott now sits 22-13-3 with a 2.47 goals against average and a 0.911 save percentage.
Los Angeles Kings 34-29-7, 5th Pacific Division
The situation has turned pretty desperate for the Kings. With 12 games to go in their season, LA sits nine points back of their opposition tonight and, more importantly, six back of the Nashville Predators for the second and final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The Kings have been able to rack up some points in their more recent outings; in their last five games, LA is 3-1-1 and that includes a 2-0 shutout over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. In terms of the teams they’re chasing, the Kings have three games left against each of Calgary and Edmonton and one remaining with the Anaheim Ducks.
Tonight will mark another return for Iginla to his old stomping grounds, and now with a third different team. Iginla has also played as a visitor at the Saddledome with both the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche and is now playing on one of LA’s top two lines. Since being acquired at the deadline, Iginla has played with Kopitar and Brown almost exclusively; he has three goals in the seven games he’s played since the acquisition<.
While there’s no confirmation from the team, the expectation is we’ll see Jonathan Quick get the start in net for the Kings tonight. Since returning from a massive knee injury, Quick has been pretty good; he’s 5-1-1 in the seven starts he’s made. Even with Ben Bishop in the fold, Quick has been the guy relied on more often than not since returning and he made 26 saves to post the shutout over Buffalo on Thursday. On the season, Quick sits 5-1-1 with a 2.02 goals against average and a 0.928 save percentage.