With frustration mounting, maybe hitting the road is the best thing for the Flames. After an outstanding performance in a losing effort at home to Chicago on Saturday, Calgary hits the road for three games starting tonight in Detroit. This trip will also take the Flames through Columbus on Thursday and finish Saturday night in Vancouver.
Calgary’s effort against the Blackhawks was outstanding, specifically in the third period. By firing 27 shots on net in the final 25 minutes of play, they had the league best team on the run and scrambling in their own end. Despite a 3-2 shootout loss, the Flames seem to be trying to focus on the positives heading into tonight, which is really all they can do.
In Detroit, Calgary will take on a beat up Red Wings team, and team they’ve had some decent success against of late on the road. The Flames have gone 4-2-2 in their last eight trips to the Joe Louis Arena and they’ll look to take advantage of an opponent who can’t seem to keep healthy bodies in their lineup.
Calgary Flames 1-3-2, 15th Western Conference
Michael Cammalleri-Alex Tanguay-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Jiri Hudler-Matt Stajan-Roman Cervenka
Steve Begin-Blair Jones-Blake Comeau
Mark Giordano-Jay Bouwmeester
Dennis Wideman-T.J. Brodie
Derek Smith-Chris Butler
The lines and pairings stay virtually the same tonight as they were Saturday against Chicago. The only change is one the fourth line where it looks like Steve Begin will return in place of Tim Jackman. Jackman participated in Calgary’s first fight of the season against the Hawks, going toe-to-toe with Brandon Bollig and earning a hefty scab under his lower lip.
The line to watch to me is the trio centered by Backlund. They combined for 20 shots against the Hawks and were dangerous from start to finish. The pairing of Backlund and Stempniak has been somewhat of a constant this season, and Head Coach Bob Hartley has matched them up against mostly third line depth opposition. As a result, they’ve really gone to work and adding Glencross will only help the matter as he excels in hammering bottom six matchups.
On the blueline, Cory Sarich will sit for the second consecutive game. This is only the second time the Flames top six defensemen will stay the same in back-to-back nights. Things might get even more complicated in the coming days, as Anton Babchuk has been cleared for contact and is on this trip with the team. When he’s ready to be activated off IR, Calgary will have eight players to rotate into six spots.
After a much better performance over the weekend, Miikka Kiprusoff will get the start once again. He’s the only goaltender in the league to have played every single minute for his team. His overall body of work needs to be better. As much as goalie stats can sometimes be team dependant, a 342 goals against average and 0.859 save percentage really do tell a story of a netminder who needs to play better on the whole.
Detroit Red Wings 4-3-1, 8th Western Conference
Tomas Tatar-Pavel Datsyuk-Valtteri Filppula
Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner
Daniel Cleary-Justin Abdelkader-Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo/Patrick Eaves
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey-Ian White
Kent Huskins-Brian Lashoff
It’s a beat up Red Wings team, and there really isn’t any other way to describe them. Detroit is without key players up front and on the blueline, and they’re having to cobble together a roster on a nightly basis.
Up front, the Wings are without Mikael Samuelsson for an indefinite period of time with a groin injury and are also feeling the loss of Darren Helm. He’s out with a sore back and was thought to be questionable for tonight against Calgary, but it now looks like he will not play.
The good news is Detroit still has decent depth to their forward ranks. Swiss addition Brunner has given them a little more balance in their top nine, as has the return of Bertuzzi after missing some time with illness. The fact that Zetterberg and Datsyuk are leading the way in points is important, as it seems to have had a trickle-down effect. The Wings have to be especially happy with Zetterberg’s 12 points thus far after a slight down season; his 69 points last year was his lowest total since the last lockout.
Also of note is Tatar, who will see some time in the top six after an impressive season in the American Hockey League. Tatar has 19 goals and 39 points in 44 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins and is getting a shot with Datsyuk and Filppula; we’ll see how long that lasts for. Tatar has nine previous NHL games under his belt, all played during the 2010-2011 season.
Some good and bad news on the Red Wings blueline. Their loss to Columbus on Saturday also saw them lose Brendan Smith three to four weeks with a sprained shoulder. Smith joined Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and Ian White (lacerated leg) as injured Detroit defensemen. The good news, however, is the status of White. His laceration has healed and he’ll be back in the lineup against the Flames after missing two weeks.
Much like Calgary, the Red Wings have a workhorse in net in Jimmy Howard, and a number one goaltender who needs to play better. He’s played almost every minute in net for Detroit this year, save a little bit of time for the injured Jonas Gustavsson; Howard’s numbers aren’t flattering, with a 2.98 goals against average and a 0.898 save percentage. He’ll get the start tonight.