For the first time in their Calgary tenure, the Flames have points in five straight games to start a season. They accomplished that feat on Friday night, taking a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils to conclude a three game home stand with five of a possible six points. Overall, Calgary is one of just three teams without a regulation loss to their name, joining the 6-0 San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche.
Things get a little more difficult for the Flames now, however. In their first five games, they played just one Western Conference opponent, falling 5-4 in overtime at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks. They’ve gone 3-0-1 in their other four games, all against Eastern Conference opposition. That changes tonight when the Flames kick off a five game road trip in Anaheim (8 pm, Sportsnet 960). This trip also takes Calgary through San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas. All five teams are in conference, and four of them are in division, so this will serve as a very good measuring stick.
First off is another chance to slay a demon that has been tormenting for more than nine years. The Flames haven’t won a regular season game at the Honda Center in Anaheim since they took a 5-1 decision on January 19th of 2004. Since that time Calgary has lost 16 straight contests in Orange County including their only trip last season by a 4-0 score. It’s the worst stretch the Flames have in an opposing building by far. The good news? This team has already played well above expectations early on, so why not buck the Anaheim trend this season as well?
On this trip especially, the Flames are going to be tested when it comes to their forward depth. They’ve been playing shorthanded since the start of the season, but now will have to play five tough road games minus David Jones (upper body), Matt Stajan (leg contusion), and Mike Cammalleri (hand). There is no word on a timetable for any of those injured players, so Calgary will have to be without three potential top six forwards for the next little while.
The Flames will go with the same lineup they used in New Jersey tonight against the Ducks. That means defenseman Derek Smith will sit out his sixth consecutive game, as he’s been the odd man out all season long. Blair Jones will also sit in the press box, his second straight game out of the lineup after being recalled from Abbotsford late last week.
It’s tryout game number six for Monahan, but it will shock many if the 2013 sixth overall selection is returned to the OHL’s Ottawa 67′s after his nine game window expires. Monahan is tied for second in the team in scoring with six points in five games and is the first rookie to excite like this in years. It sure is funny to see the team’s two leading forwards on the “third line”, but that is how they’ve been utilized by Head Coach Bob Hartley. While Monahan sits second, it’s Hudler leading this team in scoring overall with seven points. It’s good to see Hudler making such an impact early on, because he was frustratingly inconsistent for much of last season.
It’ll be Joey MacDonald making his fifth straight start in net, looking for his fourth win. Overall, MacDonald is 3-0-1 with a 2.98 goals against average and a 0.897 save percentage. Knowing there’s a back-to-back set on this trip, and knowing he hasn’t played in nearly two weeks, it’s a pretty good bet Karri Ramo will get some playing time on the road as well.
Much like last year, the Ducks are out to a scorching start. They went 13-2-1 to start the shortened 2013 campaign, a mark that would set that up very nicely for a second place finish in the Western Conference. Anaheim would eventually be ousted in seven games by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. This year, they’ve won four of five and are terrorizing opposing goalies, firing 38.6 shots per game on net through five games. Only the Sharks have put more rubber towards the net early on this season.
This team is battling some depth issues up front, but that’s nothing new. With the departure of Bobby Ryan to Ottawa has paved the way for the returning Penner to play with Anaheim’s nine million dollar men. Perry leads the team in scoring with six points in five games for a Ducks team averaging 3.6 goals per game to start the season.
It’s Silfverberg who is the interesting one, as he’s second on the team in scoring with five points early on. He came over from the Sens in the deal that sent the Ryan the other way, and he’s been getting plenty of opportunity, averaging almost 16 minutes per game. The former Ottawa second round pick played all 48 games with the Sens last year, finishing with 19 points in his rookie campaign.
It looks like Viktor Fasth will get the start in net tonight, his third of the season. He and Jonas Hiller have split starts evenly so far this season, which seems to be the MO for the Ducks going forward.