The Calgary Flames have had their opportunties on a few different occassions to get above the .500 mark, but have yet to be able to do so. In a lot of ways, it's just a number. For the Flames, however, it's an indication that the results haven't been consistent enough so far this season. Calgary has won back-to-back games only once in 2013 and while they are by no means out of it yet, they're going to have to start putting wins together to get themselves where they want to be.
Tonight, the Flames welcome the Los Angeles Kings to the Scotiabank Saddledome (8 pm, Sportsnet 960 The FAN). It's the only time the defending Stanley Cup Champs visit town, and as it stands right now, tonight is a battle of two teams trying to work their way up to where they feel they belong.
As Calgary opens a three game home stand, one thing is perfectly clear: if the Flames want to start seeing a move up the standings, they're going to have to start winning games on home ice. After this three game set, the Flames will have played roughly 65% of their games at the Saddledome, and the hope is they'll have a little more to show for it. Through eight games played in Calgary thus far, the Flames have won just twice sitting at 2-4-2.
Calgary Flames 5-6-3, 14th Western Conference
Michael Cammalleri-Alex Tanguay-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-Lee Stempniak
Jiri Hudler-Roman Horak-Roman Cervenka
Blake Comeau-Steve Begin-Tim Jackman
Mark Giordano-Jay Bouwmeester
Dennis Wideman-T.J. Brodie
Chris Butler-Derek Smith
Coming off Monday's 4-0 loss in Phoenix, a lot of the centered around Calgary's traditional top players. Iginla has just one goal this season despite contributing eight assists, and his lack of scoring continues to a dominant storyline. Tanguay has three assists over his last six games, but has also managed just one shot on net over that same span. And while Cammalleri has put up some decent points of late, he was nowhere to be found against the Coyotes, especially in the latter stages of the game. These are three players who need to make impacts for the Flames to have consistent success, so we'll see if some time at home can help that along.
Head Coach Bob Hartley had plenty of praise for the fourth line coming out of the Phoenix loss, as he believed the trio of Comeau, Begin, and Jackman was the best on the ice. Jackman lead the Flames with eight hits on Monday and also dropped the gloves for the second time this season; that came a day after Begin and the fourth line got together to score the winning goal in an impressive comeback victory over the Dallas Stars.
Giordano will be a little lighter in the pocket book this evening, as the NHL fined him $10,000 on Tuesday evening after a slew footing incident against the Stars. Because it's his first offence, the league fined him the maximum allowable under the new CBA. It looked unintentional to me, but the league still wanted to send a message that it was a dangerous play.
Joey MacDonald gets the start in net, his second since joining the Flames last week. MacDonald picked up his first win since March of last year on Sunday when he helped get the job done in Dallas. The biggest wonder now is how long Miikka Kiprusoff is out. Calgary's number one goalie needed an additional two weeks to recover from an MCL injury, which points to a return early next week. There's no guarantee, however, that he won't need more recovery time following. With back-to-back games this weekend, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Danny Taylor get his second NHL start, either.
The Flames have made one change on the blueline, with Derek Smith back in the lineup in place of Cory Sarich.
Los Angeles Kings 6-6-2, 12th Western Conference
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Kyle Clifford-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Justin Williams
Trevor Lewis-Colin Fraser-Jordan Nolan
Keaton Ellerby-Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi-Slava Voynov
Jake Muzzin-Davis Drewiske
Surprise, surprise, the LA Kings are having issues putting the puck in the net. After finishing last season as the second lowest scoring team in the NHL, the Kings are the fifth lowest scoring team in the league early on this season, averaging 2.29 goals per game. Why this continues to be the case with names like Richards, Carter, Kopitar, and Brown on the team is a mystery.
Much like the Flames, the Kings have yet to get above the .500 plateau this season and will try for a fourth time tonight. LA scored two late goals in a 3-1 win over the Oilers last night, already the team's tenth road game this season. After tonight, eight of the next nine Kings games will be played at Staples Center; they're 2-1-1 this year on home ice.
While LA has a full compliment of players up front, it's on the blueline where they're really hurting. Three members of their Stanley Cup winning top six are out, putting the Kings into scramble mode over the last number of weeks. Willie Mitchell and and Matt Greene are out long term, while Alec Martinez is on injured reserve as well. Names like Drewiskie, Ellerby and Muzzin have come in to fill the void, and have done the job admirably at times, but those are some big holes to fill.
Heading into last night, Doughty had a league worst -11 on the season; that has since improved to -9 with the win in Edmonton, but it is still an eyebrow raising figure. +/- can be a very skewed and inaccurate stat many times, and a stat that I don't put a ton of stock into, but seeing one of the league's best defenseman beside that figure doesn't look quite right. On the other hand, the team is very happy with the strides made by Voynov, who has a pair of goals and six points off the back end and is being used in a lot of different situations.
Jonathan Quick picked up the win against the Oilers, so it'll likely be Jonathan Bernier getting the start in net tonight. After being a Vezina Trophy candidate last season, Quick has struggled with consistency like many top end goalies have early on; he's 4-5-2 with a 2.58 goals against average and a 0.900 save percentage. Compare that to 1.95 and 0.929 totals a year ago, and the numbers will back up his up and down start. If Bernier gets the start tonight, it'll be his third of the season.