All of a sudden, the .500 mark doesn’t seem that distant. Getting back to even terms would be just a small consolation prize for the Calgary Flames, but it’s something to strive for at the very least. Now two games below the mark, the Flames will look for a third straight win tonight when they visit the New York Rangers (5 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960). It’s game two of a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference.
Calgary opened their trip with a 2-1 overtime win on Saturday afternoon, their second consecutive game won by that score in extra time. The Flames triumphed over the Hurricanes in similar fashion on Thursday, and have brought their record to 6-3 when games go beyond regulation. In many of those games, the Flames would have rather closed things out in regulation, but finding ways to get that extra point also has a value. Overall, Calgary is 4-2 in overtime and 2-1 in shootouts this season.
Calgary Flames 13-15-4, 6th Pacific Division
Mike Cammalleri-Matt Stajan-Lee Stempniak
Curtis Glencross-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler
Paul Byron-Mikael Backlund-David Jones
Lance Bouma-Joe Colborne-Brian McGrattan
Kris Russell-TJ Brodie
Ladislav Smid-Mark Giordano
Chris Butler-Shane O’Brien
Byron was the star on Saturday afternoon, scoring the game’s tying goal in the third period before setting up Stajan for the game winner 42 seconds into overtime. For Byron, it was his second consecutive multi-point game after putting together his first ever game of that variety on Thursday. He played a season high 14:20 and has been just fine in his role since being recalled from Abbotsford. In all likelihood, he’ll go down when the team is fully healthy, but for the time being he’s making a case for himself.
With Monahan’s return against the Sabres, the Flames are now as healthy as they’ve been all year long. To this point, they haven’t been able to ice their full desired lineup, but are getting much closer. The only player missing on this roster is Dennis Wideman, who continues to recover from a broken hand. Monahan played 15:20 after missing seven games with a broken foot.
The lines above are what the Flames went with yesterday in Buffalo, but there will be at least one change. Blair Jones will return to the lineup after missing a pair of games as a healthy scratch, but it’s unclear who will come out in his place. It also looks like TJ Galiardi will miss his second straight game as a healthy scratch.
Karri Ramo will get the start for the third straight game and he’ll look to continue his very strong play of late. Over his last five starts, Ramo is 4-1-0 with a 1.40 goals against average and a very impressive 0.946 save percentage, giving the Flames their best goaltending over any stretch all year long. While Ramo, Reto Berra, and Joey MacDonald have had decent games, not one has been able to put any games in succession like this, so this is very good to see.
New York Rangers 15-17-1, 7th Metropolitan Division
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Brad Richards-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin-Brian Boyle-Taylor Pyatt
Benoit Pouliot-Dominic Moore-Derek Dorsett
Ryan McDonagh-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Dan Girardi
John Moore-Dylan McIlrath
It’s been as up and down as you can possibly get when looking at the Rangers this season. Under new Head Coach Alain Vigneault, New York was dreadful out of the gate before going on a nice little tear to get themselves back in the back, and now, they’re struggling once again. The Rangers have lost four straight games heading into tonight’s action, including a 4-2 setback to Columbus on Thursday night. As such, they’ve slumped to second last in their division, ahead of only the Islanders.
New York will welcome Brassard back to the lineup tonight after missing just one game with a lower body injury, which is good news for a team already battling some pretty significant injuries. Captain Ryan Callahan is on the shelf again, this time with a sprained MCL; he’s out for a few weeks. Defenceman Marc Staal, on the other hand, is out indefinitely with a concussion, but he’s apparently making progress.
This is one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL, as the Rangers enter tonight’s action averaging just 2.18 goals per game. Only the league-worst Sabres score less than they do, which is a head scratcher when you take a look at this lineup. Yes, Nash, Callahan, Hagelin, and more have all been out for chunks of time, but this is still a pretty deep offensive group. Richards leads New York in scoring with 25 points in 33 games while Zuccarello has been a nice surprise with 21 points.
Henrik Lundqvist gets the start in net sporting less than Lundqvist-like numbers. Overall this year, the Swedish Olympic starter is 9-14-1 with a 2.71 goals against average and a 0.910 save percentage, totals that are very atypical. Lundqvist has lost four straight games, allowing 14 goals in that stretch with a save percentage of just 0.843. The Rangers could really use him returning to his elite form, as this team hasn’t scored nearly enough in front of him.