Tonight marks the first of four meetings between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars. Dallas took last season's four game series 3-0-1 with the only loss coming on home ice in overtime following a phantom delay of game penalty on Nick Grossman, November 4th.
The Dallas Stars saw their Western Conference lead taken back by the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks and look to take it back tonight on home ice where they are 10-0-2 in their last twelve games.
Calgary is an interesting animal. If you watch NHL Network or TSN regularly you're well versed in their highly publicized struggles this season, but they remain only nine points out of a playoff spot and the season is not yet half over. Iginla, Jokinen, Tanguay, Bourque, Hagman, Stajan, Bouwmeester... the list goes on and on. This is a roster with some really nice talent on it but they can't seem to put it together this year. Yet.
The Flames have lost five straight on the road (all in the Western Conference) scoring only seven goals in that span. They're 5-11-3 overall on the road this season and that (.342) is the worst in the conference. The Stars have found recently that winning on the road can catapult you to great heights. The Flames are dabbling in the other side of that equation. Add in Dallas' stellar home record and a Calgary win tonight would prove to be a statistical oddity indeed.
Never count out a desperate team, however. And don't count out Jerome Iginla against the Dallas Stars he's torched so many, many times over the years.
Continued after the jump...
When the biggest news to come out of practice is that Kari Lehton will start in goal again tomorrow, you know this team is cruising right along at the moment.
The lines remain the same:
Barch was the odd man out on Tuesday so we could see him subbed in tonight for either Sutherby or Segal. Sutherby has been useful on the PK this month (especially when Petersen was out) and Segal is playing well with that abrasive Ott/Burish line, so I don't know who comes out, but Crawford wants everyone involved.
Same goes with Niskanen and Fistric who are currently playing musical chairs with the defense. I'll have more after morning skate on this.
Apparently Mr. Segal was the loser...or winner? of some kind of shootout competition on Wednesday at practice (depending on who you believe) and was made to wear a pretty silly looking helmet and take a lap. See this picture on his Facebook page here.
Calgary has struggled this season, so much so (even though they're only nine points out of a playoff spot, or as some might call it, a good week) that some are calling for the dismantling of the team. There are those in Canada even weighing Miikka Kiprusoff as a trade option or even Jerome Iginla. (Which would create an interesting market where Brad Richards is concerned as a rental players.)
Fourteenth in the Western Conference - eight points out of a playoff spot as of Wednesday morning - the Flames have lost three straight games and five of their last seven.
They can't score, can't keep up with quicker teams and can't find ways to win close games. Even when they play pretty decent games, they're falling to teams that aren't as good on paper.
History has shown that anything is possible - the Flames watched a massive lead of their own disappear when they went cold down the stretch in 2007, and the red-hot Vancouver Canucks passed them to claim the Northwest Division crown.
But not only do these Flames need help in the form of a collapse by one of the current playoff contenders, they have to put together massive strings of victories to do their part in an unlikely surge into the top eight.
And our SB Nation friends Matchsticks and Gasoline:
I think most people who blog about this team believed that the potential for improvement existed after last season, that the percentages would correct themselves to a degree, and the Flames might able to sneak into the playoffs after a one-year haitus, but that is looking like an increasingly impossible feat with every loss. The Flames are in a position where they would now have to collect 72% of a remaining 94 points available to have a fighting chance at a post-season berth, which means they can only afford to lose another 13 games in regulation.
Ok, that is pretty damning.