The 2013 rendition of the Calgary Flames sure is a bizarre one. They simply cannot win on the road, as it’s been over a month since they’ve won a hockey game away from the Scotiabank Saddledome. On the other hand, they don’t really lose at home. The Flames have now gone more than a month without a home loss, dating back to February 20th. Tonight, they’re back at the ‘Dome as they welcome the Colorado Avalanche for the final time this season (8 pm, Sportsnet 960).
Calgary set a new franchise record last night by falling 2-0 at the United Center in Chicago. The loss was their tenth consecutive on the road, breaking a record set during the 1985-1986 season. It was also the ninth straight time the Flames have fell in the Windy City, dating all the way back to March 16th of 2008. All in all, their first of two trips to Chicago this season was not what you’d call a productive one.
In a meeting between two likely non-playoff teams, the bright side may be some offensive fireworks. Tonight’s game between the Flames and Avs pits the second and fourth worst defensive teams in the league against one another. Knowing Calgary sits 29th in goals against and Colorado is 27th, it shouldn’t surprise you that 18 goals have been scored in the two prior games this season. The Avalanche have won both of those games by 6-3 and 5-4 scores.
The Flames will start Joey MacDonald in net tonight, his first since March 18th. Miikka Kiprusoff was very strong last night in Chicago, making 33 saves in a losing effort after stopping 36 on Sunday in a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. The last two games were no question Kiprusoff’s strongest back-to-back games this season, as both games saw Calgary outshot by more than a two-to-one margin. Kiprusoff is one of the biggest stories surrounding this team right now, coming off Nick Kypreos’s report yesterday that he would not report to a new team if traded.
MacDonald is 3-5-1 in his Flames career with a 2.98 goals against average and a 0.894 save percentage, numbers that aren’t flattering to the 33 year old goaltender. In reality, he’s been decent in most of his starts this year, but hasn’t gotten a lot of help in front of him. That said, he hasn’t stolen any games either. With the season winding down, we might see a little more from MacDonald knowing where Calgary sits.
Any other changes will be game time calls for the Flames tonight, as the lines above are the ones they went with to start last night’s game against the Blackhawks. Brian McGrattan was the healthy scratch at forward yesterday for the second consecutive time while Derek Smith and Anton Babchuk sat out on the Calgary blueline.
Time is certainly running out for the Flames, as they have 17 games remaining this season and an elimination number dwindling by the day. Their elimination is now at 14.5, which combines Calgary losses and wins from the eighth place time. Any time Calgary loses a game that number will drop by one, while any time the eighth place team wins the number will drop by one as well. Overtime or shootout losses from either side also drops the number by 0.5.
The big story at the Saddledome today was O’Reilly and his first appearance in Calgary since signing an offer sheet with the Flames back on February 28th. Of course, the Avalanche took little time to match the two year contract and bring one of their most important players back into the fold. O’Reilly’s absence from the lineup for the first 19 games of the season certainly hurt the team, and he’s been pretty good since returning with 11 points in 12 games.
Injuries have taken their toll on this team this year, with names like Landeskog and Johnson missing significant time at different times in the season. Steve Downie is done for the season after having knee surgery early on in the season. Currently the Avs are without Paul Stastny and Ryan Wilson, and both are unlikely to play tonight. The lines above are what they went with in their last game against Vancouver.
Semyon Varlamov gets the start in net, his 26th of the season. He’s had his struggles, going 9-14-3 with a 3.04 goals against average and a 0.904 save percentage.