The big topic around the Calgary Flames has been the issue of pushing back. With losses in two consecutive games heading into the weekend, and with the team two games below the .500 mark, the Flames open up a back-to-back set at the Scotiabank Saddledome Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild (8 pm, Sportsnet 960).
Pushing back has been something missing at times in their last two losses. On Monday, the team fell 4-0 on the road in Phoenix and didn’t show a ton of fight in the third period when the Coyotes really started taking over. Then, back at home on Wednesday, the Flames fell 3-1 to the Kings and much was made about a lack of response when starting goalie Joey MacDonald was run over by Trevor Lewis.
Head Coach Bob Hartley and the rest of the team have talked about being tougher to play against over the last 48 hours or so, and they’ll hope to start showing that on Saturday. At least one of Calgary’s recent recalls from Abbotsford speaks directly to that, and we’ll see if their play on the ice does as well.
Calgary Flames 5-7-3, 14th Western Conference
Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Mike Cammalleri-Lee Stempniak
Jiri Hudler-Blake Comeau-Sven Baertschi
Akim Aliu-Steve Begin-Tim Jackman
Mark Giordano-Jay Bouwmeester
Dennis Wideman-T.J. Brodie
Chris Butler-Derek Smith
The big addition to the Flames lineup is Aliu, who was recalled from the Abbotsford Heat on Thursday. Aliu played two games with Calgary last season, and much was made of how he got under the skin of both the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks. The difference this time, however, is the Flames are looking for that type of spark and aggravation for more than two games. That said, Aliu can certainly disturb things when he’s on, which he’ll need to be for an extended stay with the big club.
You’ll notice one absentee from the lines the Flames ran at Friday’s practice (Saturday’s morning skate was optional). Roman Cervenka looks to sit out against the Wild, but not so much because of performance reasons. The team has been carefully monitoring his conditioning throughout his first NHL season, and this speaks more to management and maintenance than anything else. Cervenka’s conditioning wasn’t NHL level to begin with, and then a serious blood clot issue compounded things when he couldn’t train at an NHL level for a good chunk of time. If Cervenka sits tonight, it speaks more to giving him a rest with back-to-back games upcoming.
Baertschi is a game-time decision, as he looks to return to the lineup after missing 11 games with a hip flexor injury. If he returns Saturday, the rookie winger could infuse a little more skill into Calgary’s top- nine forwards. That said, Baertschi was playing a more reduced offensive role in the two games before he sustained the injury, so we’ll see how Hartley utilizes him in his potential return.
With Blair Jones and Roman Horak in the minors, Cervenka will be the only healthy scratch up front while Cory Sarich and Anton Babchuk will sit out on the blue-line. MacDonald makes his second consecutive start after making 33 saves in a losing effort on Wednesday. Hartley didn’t tip his hand as to who will start Sunday night against the Coyotes.
Minnesota Wild 8-6-2, 8th Western Conference
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Jason Zucker-Matt Cullen-Devin Setoguchi
Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Kyle Brodziak-Charlie Coyle
Mike Rupp-Mikael Granlund-Torrey Mitchell
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser-Jared Spurgeon
The Wild will be without one key member Saturday, as Cal Clutterbuck will miss out with a thigh contusion suffered on Thursday night. Clutterbuck took a leg-on-leg hit from Taylor Hall late in the third period of Minnesota’s 3-1 win over the Oilers. As a result, the team has called up Charlie Coyle from Houston of the American Hockey League. He’s already seen one tour with the Wild, going pointless in 5 games. In 47 games with the Aeros this season, Coyle has 14 goals and 25 points.
Other than Minnesota’s win in Edmonton, which was decided by a whopping two goals, it’s been nothing but one goal games for the Wild. Before Thursday, they had played in five straight one-goal games; seven of their nine games this month have been one goal games, as well.
The two big name additions to the Wild lineup have been pretty good. Parise continues to lead the team in scoring with seven goals and 12 points and seems to have bounced back nicely from a stretch where he had just one point in an eight game stretch. The last three games, however, Parise has two points. Suter, on the other hand, is red hot off the Wild blue-line with five assists over his last six games. He’s still looking for his first goal.
Niklas Backstrom looks to get the start in net. He’ll look to continue his mastery in Calgary; the Wild starter has gone 6-1-0 with a 0.90 goals-against average and a 0.972 save percentage in his last seven games at the Saddledome.