Would it surprise anyone to see the Calgary Flames play a close game tonight? The Flames played a pair of one goal games over the weekend, taking out Dallas 4-3 in a shootout on Friday before falling 3-2 to Phoenix the following night. Calgary has now played a league high 41 one goal games, and have a very good chance of breaking their franchise record of 45 set back in the 2005-2006 campaign.
Their opponents tonight are no stranger to one goal games, either. Buffalo enters tonight having played in 34 such affairs, sporting a 12-14-8 record. Funny enough, the only other time these two teams have met saw the Flames top the Sabres 2-1 in overtime back on December 14th. Tonight, the two teams meet for the final time this season (7 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 27-34-7, 6th Pacific Division
Lance Bouma-Mikael Backlund-Paul Byron
Mike Cammalleri-Sean Monahan-Joe Colborne
Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-Brian McGrattan
Kevin Westgarth-TJ Galiardi-Ben Hanowski
TJ Brodie-Mark Giordano
Kris Russell-Chris Butler
Ladislav Smid-Tyler Wotherspoon
The big story tonight centers around Stajan’s return to the lineup. The newly extended Flames pivot missed Calgary’s last eight games to be with his wife after the passing of their infant son. It was really good to see Stajan back around the team, and it sure seems like he’s relishing the prospect of just getting back in the swing of things.
The Flames signed NCAA product Ken Agostino to his entry level contract on Monday, and he joined the team for practice this morning. Agostino just finished his senior year at Yale and was on third of Calgary’s return in last March’s Jarome Iginla deal with Pittsburgh (Hanowski and Morgan Klimchuk are the other players). Agostino will not play tonight, but could make his NHL debut this weekend against either Nashville or Edmonton.
With Stajan’s return and the Agostino signing, the Flames have returned Corban Knight to Abbotsford of the American Hockey League. Knight played seven games in his first NHL action, scoring his first goal in Wednesday’s 7-2 thumping of Anaheim. He’d add the shootout winner two nights later, as Calgary came from behind to best the Stars. He’s a much needed addition to a depleted Heat team and will be plugged in right away.
It’s another start for Joni Ortio in between the pipes, the seventh of his young NHL career. Ortio made 23 saves in a losing effort against Phoenix, dropping his record to 3-4-0 on the year. Nonetheless, he was pretty important in keeping Calgary in the game, specifically as they were handed six consecutive penalties in the third period. Incumbent Karri Ramo still isn’t 100% in recovery from a knee injury, so Joey MacDonald remains the backup.
Buffalo Sabres 19-41-8, 8th Atlantic Division
Cory Conacher-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford
Marcus Foligno-Cody Hodgson-Brian Flynn
Nicolas Deslauriers-Ville Leino-Matt D’Agostini
John Scott-Zenon Konopka-Matt Ellis
Chad Ruhwedel-Christian Ehrhoff
Rasmus Ristolainen-Henrik Tallinder
Jamie McBain-Mike Weber
The nightmare year for the Sabres continues, as they enter tonight with losses in six straight games. We knew this season wasn’t going to me easy for the Sabres, but to see any team 22 games below the .500 mark is still a shock. Buffalo is 11 points away from the 29th placed Edmonton Oilers and will almost certainly finish with top odds for this year’s draft lottery.
You may not be familiar with many of those names in the above lineup, which is quite understandable. Along with being dreadful, the Sabres are also bear up, missing six regular skaters from their lineup. Up front, Chris Stewart (ankle), Zemgus Girgensons (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (foot), and Kevin Porter (lower body) will be absent tonight. On top of that, Tyler Myers (elbow) and Alex Sulzer (upper body) are scratches on the blueline, making this evening’s task an uphill climb.
The Buffalo injured list also includes their top two goaltenders. Number one Jhonas Enroth suffered a lower body injury on Sunday while backup Michal Neuvirth will sit with a lower body injury of his own. That leaves the team with Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett, who was recalled from Rochester on an emergency basis.