For the first time since February of 2012, the Toronto Maple Leafs will visit Calgary. Playing game three of their western Canadian road swing, the Leafs will visit the Flames in the middle of a three game home stand of their own (6 pm MT/8 pm ET, Sportsnet 960). It’s the first of two meetings between the teams this year, as Calgary will make their trip to Toronto late in season.
The visiting Maple Leafs are coming off a 4-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, a game where James Reimer was the star. The former Red Deer Rebels standout made 43 saves for his first shutout of the season, pushing his record to a perfect 4-0 to start the season. Toronto was outshot for a tenth consecutive game, yet pushed their scoring average up a couple of decimal points. The Leafs are now the fourth highest scoring team in the NHL, averaging 3.31 goals per game.
Calgary, on the other hand, is coming off by far their best performance of the season on Saturday night. The Flames took a well deserved 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals, helping to erase some of the memories of a 1-4 road trip through California, Arizona, and Texas. Overall, Calgary sits just one game above the .500 mark, but they’ve done most of their damage against the Eastern Conference thus far. The Flames are 4-0-1 against non-conference opponents, but just 1-4-1 against the West.
Toronto Maple Leafs 9-4-0, 1st Atlantic Division
James van Riemsdyk-Nazem Kadri-Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond-David Bolland-David Clarkson
Carter Ashton-Jay McClement-Joffrey Lupul
Colton Orr-Trevor Smith-Frazer McLaren
Carl Gunnarsson-Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly-Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner-Paul Ranger
Those were the lines the Leafs went with Tuesday in Edmonton, with Kadri fitting in nicely on the top line in place of the injured Tyler Bozak. While Bozak is expected to miss at least a week with a lower body injury, Kadri finished with three points including his fifth goal of the season to seal the victory in the third period. It was a game lead by the top trio, as Kadri wasn’t the highest scorer in Alberta’s capitol.
Kessel lead the way last night with his first four point game in more than two years. That came back on October 8th of 2011 when he scored three times and added an assist against the Ottawa Senators. Against the Oilers, Kessel finished with a pair of goals and two assists, pushing his point streak to four games. Thanks to that four game stretch, where Kessel has put up ten points, he’s now tied with Steven Stamkos for second in league scoring with 18 points, trailing only Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.
It’s homecoming night for a number of Maple Leafs this evening. Captain Phaneuf will face the team that drafted him once again in a trade that still remains a sore spot for Flames fans. He was dealt along with Keith Aulie on January 31st of 2010 in a deal that sent Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White the other way; Stajan is the only player still with Calgary. Phaneuf is in the final season of a six year, $39 million contract former Flames GM Daryl Sutter signed him to midway through the 2007-2008 season.
For Mason Raymond, it’s even closer to home. Impressing in his first year in Toronto, Raymond grew up 20 minutes west of Calgary in the community of Cochrane and was linked to the Flames throughout the offseason. He’s enjoyed his trips to the Saddledome in the past, with two separate three-goal games in the books from his time in Vancouver. Off to a pretty good start to his Maple Leafs career, Raymond will look to snap a six game goalless drought tonight.
And don’t forget Morgan Rielly who is no stranger to the Saddledome, either. Rielly faced off against the Calgary Hitmen plenty of times while a member of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. The 19-year-old defenceman looked to have scored his first NHL goal last night in Edmonton before it was credited to Kadri, who glanced it in front.
It sounds like Jonathan Bernier will get the start in net tonight after James Reimer started in Edmonton yesterday.
Calgary Flames 5-4-2, 6th Pacific Division
Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-David Jones
Mike Cammalleri-Joe Colborne-TJ Galiardi
Sven Baertschi-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma-Mikael Backlund-Brian McGrattan
Chris Butler-TJ Brodie
Kris Russell-Dennis Wideman
Derek Smith-Shane O’Brien
The injury news just keeps getting worse for the Flames, who found out they’d be without captain Mark Giordano for 6-8 weeks thanks to a broken ankle. It’s a huge blow for a team surprising some out of the gates, as the loss of Giordano takes away their best player. The first year captain has been outstanding to start the season, playing the toughest minutes on the team while also chipping in offensively with nine points in eight games. He was hurt blocking a shot in Calgary’s win against the LA Kings ten days ago and will miss his fourth straight game tonight.
Calgary also got bad news up front, finding out Lee Stempniak will miss an extended period of time thanks to a broken foot. The former Maple Leaf also had nine points to start the season and was one of, if not the most, consistent forwards for the team so far. He’s officially classified as week-to-week. The Flames will also be without defenceman Chris Breen tonight who is day-to-day with an abdominal wall strain.
The Flames got some strong blueline performances Saturday against Washington, and they’ll need more of the same tonight. The pairing of Wideman and Russell lead the way statistically, combining for four points and a +10 rating (+5 each) and were dangerous all night. It was the top shutdown pairing of Butler and Brodie that saw the toughest matchups, however, holding Alex Ovechkin’s line to no points all night. It was Butler’s best game of the season, by far, and a game for Brodie that Head Coach Bob Hartley called his best to date.
Colborne will face his former team for the first time after being traded to Calgary prior to the start of the season in exchange for a fourth round draft pick. The former first round pick of the Boston Bruins has seen his responsibility steadily increase and played more than he has all season against the Capitals. He finished with more than 15 minutes of ice time, more than five minutes more than his season average. If he stays with the same trio tonight, you can expect that to be around the same.
Karri Ramo will get the start in net after making 27 saves in a winning effort against Washington. It was the most controlled goaltending performance we’ve seen all year from the Flames, and it shows continued evolution. This is Ramo’s first year back in the NHL after four seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. Tonight’s start will be the third straight for Ramo, and the fifth in six games overall.