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Flames Game Day: Anything Else in Mind, Darryl?




Pengrowth Saddledome


Opposition: Canes Country

TV: None

Radio: Fan 960

After a moderately interesting week, the Strum und Drang around this year’s version of Team Turmoil appears to have settled down to the point where they might have a chance to pay attention to matters on-ice. That would be a plan, given the fact that, at least to the best of my knowledge, ninth place isn’t a very good spot to be. Tonight, the cast of recent arrivals gets a full airing against the ‘Canes in front of what will almost certainly be a pensive gathering at the Dome.


Matt Stajan is being offered another opportunity to work with the slumping captain, in the hope that he and fellow newcomer Niklas Hagman can help Iginla shake loose. The face of the franchise was, along with a couple of other elder statesmen, asked to stop by for a chin-wag with the boss yesterday. From the comments afterwards, it sounded about as cheery as one might expect under the circumstances. The concern isn’t misplaced, either. Iginla’s play has been off most of the season, and he was a mess Monday night, treating the puck like it was a rat, fit only to be whacked at until dead.

Another of yesterday’s scolded, Daymond Langkow, appears set to shepard two more newbies this evening, as reports have him slated for duty between Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins. We’ve spent the last few seasons referring the veteran center as “instant chemistry”, but this season has seen his play slip a bit as well. As for the new gents, the two former Rangers may have been jobbed a bit by the percentages during their Manhattan time, but that doesn’t make them simply unlucky. That trio needs to be markedly better than they’ve shown so far if any of this deck shuffling is going to work.

Rene Bourque seems set to move to a line with Dustin Boyd and Mikael Backlund. The Flames are short down the middle at the moment, with Conroy’s return rumoured to be unlikely, so the Swedish youngster will get a chance to play with two pretty decent wingers. They’ll likely face a bit softer opposition this evening, so maybe they can continue to provide some secondary offence. With the primary offence being in a serious funk at the moment, the team must be feeling the need to spread their better players around. That’s possibly why Glencross could be alongside Nystrom and Mayers, at least to start. I wouldn’t be shocked if Glencross-Boyd-Bourque finished the night as a line, or if any of the three of them moved up in the batting order at some point.


Robyn Regehr was the third player who had an audience with the GM, exiting the premises with the comment that it reminded him of visiting the principal’s office. The working world’s current term of art for that sort of meeting with the boss is “performance review”, and I’d suspect that Reggie’s work thus far was deemed unsatisfactory. He still looks like he has trouble turning, and the strategy to chip the puck behind him and force him to handle it appears to be universally understood at this juncture. He’ll have another go-round with new partner Ian White, who, being completely honest, doesn’t really strike me as a top pairing player. He really resembles a guy who should be playing in the 4-5 hole on a good team. Of course, if Butter uses Bouwmeester and Giordano against Eric Staal this evening, White will be playing the level of competition that he’s suited for.


There's been no official word on who will be in net as I write this. One would think Kipper will go tonight, given that for all the shuffling of the past few days, a back-up that doesn't drive everyone to agita wasn't on the shopping list. With a B2B upcoming in Florida this weekend, that either means Kiprusoff playing straight through to the Olympics, or another cover-your-eyes night with McE between the pipes sometime this week. Neither of those choices is very good, IMO.


The Canes have split their last ten, which hasn’t really done them any good in the race to the bottom. They did manage to help the Oilers break their 13 game winless streak Monday, falling 4-2 at the Rex in what was certainly the PPV event of the season. In fairness, the Hurricanes haven’t been as putrid as their overall record for about a month now, but that terrible start set an irreversible course for their year. A team that’s in the cap and standings spot Carolina finds itself in will always be the sort that unloads players to contenders at this time of year, and with Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen openly on the block, that process is under way. Cam Ward will get the start in net. He’s brought his season back to at least mediocre after a horrid start and an injury set him back early on.


Game wise, I don't really have high expectations this evening. The Flames are about at the training camp level in terms of togetherness, and that sort of disjointed affair may well await us tonight. I would expect Ales Kotalik to get some PP time, but considering how often the Flames draw penalties, that potentially useful part of his game will possibly be under-worked. It still seems to me that with all the extra potential bodies the Flames have, this current group of forwards may not exist in the current iteration for very long. Whoever the Flames settle on for the final roster, I hope that a few of them can complete a pass once in a while, because their inability as a team to master that skill is a major part of the reason they spend so many nights looking as if they're playing in gumbo.


No local TV tonight, so it's Maher, the bar, or piracy, starting at 7 MT.

by Robert Cleave