Despite a disappointing 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night, the Calgary Flames still have the opportunity to finish their season-long six game road trip successfully. With a 3-2 record through the first five games, a win tonight will give the Flames eight of a possible 12 points which would be something nice to build on. Calgary finishes their trip tonight when they pay a visit to the New York Islanders (5 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 10-13-1, 5th Pacific Division
Mark Jankkowski will make his NHL debut tonight which means the lines above are going to change. At this point, though, Gulutzan won’t divulge who is going to exit the lineup for Jankowski to play his first game with the team. It has been a long time coming for Flames fans on the Jankowski front. Many questioned whether the team made the right choice in drafting him 21st overall in 2012, but all Jankowski has done since that point is quietly go about his business and develop into one of the team’s top prospects. In 13 games with AHL Stockton this season, Jankowski has three goals and 12 points and after a really strong training camp, he’s shown he deserves a shot at the highest level. We’ll find out closer to game time what the lineup is going to look like with Jankowski making his debut.
After starting seven of the team’s last eight games, Chad Johnson will get a rest between the pipes tonight. As such, Brian Elliott will get the start this evening looking to snap a personal six game losing streak. Elliott has struggled mightily this season, both compared to Johnson and to his past work. Elliott had the league’s best save percentage last season, so seeing his numbers this season is a little alarming. So far this season, Elliott sits 3-9-0 with a 3.43 goals against average and an 0.882 save percentage.
Head coach Glen Gulutzan called last night Calgary’s worst start to finish effort all season long. Despite taking a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal in the first period, the Flames looked outmatched all night long and ended up surrendering 43 shots when it was all said and done. According to hockeystats.ca, the Flyers ended up with a 29-16 edge in scoring chances including a 22-12 advantage at even strength. Calgary had done a nice job of really cleaning up their defensive game prior, so giving up as many quality chances as they did will not sit well.
One positive from the loss in Philly was what the Flames did on special teams. Calgary killed off five of six powerplays and scored a pair of shorthanded goals on top of that. The Flames now lead the league with five shorthanded markers this season and they certainly have been dangerous down a man this season. Calgary also converted on their only powerplay against the Flyers as Tkachuk redirected home his sixth of the season in the third period. Unfortunately, their special teams work didn’t end up playing a big part in the result, but it’s a positive nonetheless.
New York Islanders 6-10-4, 8th Metropolitan Division
The first 20 games for the Islanders have been a bit of a nightmare, especially considering how things went last year. After advancing to round two of the playoffs last season, New York enters action tonight with the fewest points in the NHL at 16. The Isles have won just twice in their last ten games and have already fallen nine points back of an Eastern Conference wildcard spot; they’re even further back of a playoff spot in their division, sitting 12 points back of the Washington Capitals. If they’re going to salvage their season, New York is going to have start fairly soon.
The Islanders still seem to be adjusting to the losses of a couple key departures over the offseason. The losses of Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo were big as both were huge contributors over the last number of years and no one seems to have stepped up to replace either. New York’s big free agent signing in Ladd certainly hasn’t worked out in his first season with the team; he has just two goals and three points in 20 games so far. The Islanders signed Ladd to a seven year, $38.5 million contract that carries an average annual value of $5.5 million.
Much like the Flames, New York has a bit of a goaltending quandary right now. Currently, their backup has number one and we’re going to see the former between the pipes tonight. Thomas Greiss will get his eighth start of the season tonight for the Islanders and, compared to Jaroslav Halak, he’s been the better of the two goalies to date. Halak has seen a larger workload but his save percentage of 0.904 leaves a lot to be desired. Greiss sits 3-4-0 on the season with a 2.62 goals against average and a 0.915 save percentage.