Calgary - January 27, 2015 -
Who: Calgary Flames
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB
Know thine enemy: After slumping through November and parts of Decemeber, the Flames have righted the ship. Having gone 6-4 over their last 10, they’re in the thick of the playoff race, holding a one point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card spot.
This is the first of six straight at home for the Flames and they’ll have a chance to pad that lead, but they’ll be doing it without forward Curtis Glencross and defenseman Ladislav Smid. They did, however, call up 2011 13th overall pick Sven Baertschi to help fill the void.
Offensively, the Flames have been led by the youth movement. Sure, Mark Giordano continues to make his case for both the Norris and Hart trophies with his team-leading 40 points, but youngsters Johnny Gaudreau (third in scoring with 35 pointsS) and Sean Monahan (30 points, team-best 15 goals) have been huge contributors as well.
On the back end, Giordano and T.J. Brodie get all the praise, but the duo of Jonas Hiller and Kari Ramo have been very solid and exceeded expectations. They’re continuing to play above their heads, but they have heart and fight and they make the most of the pieces they have.
About the Sabres: The tire fire has reached epic proportions and threatens to engulf the entire city of Buffalo. To make matters worse, the team suspended defenseman Nikita Zadorov for failing to make it back to the team on time, though he’ll likely join them during this west coast swing. Michal Neuvirth has also been lost once again to injury, leading to the call-up of Matt Hackett.
All of that doesn’t even include the fact that the Sabres are currently in an 11-game losing-streak and don’t give you any reason to believe that they will snap that tonight. Sure, Brian Gionta returns to the lineup, but he’s like eighth in scoring on the worst offensive team in the NHL.
They’re still about the same defensively, yielding a ton of shots on a nightly basis and really only having about three or four usable parts for a real NHL defensive unit. Enroth will again assume the load in net, but his invincible streak from November and December seem like an eternity ago.
The last time these two met: The last time these two met, December 11 back in Buffalo, the Sabres were red-hot and Enroth was playing like Superman. The Flames held a 3-2 edge in the third period until Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson chipped in goals to give the Sabres their eighth win in 11 games.
The part where I predict things: I almost get the feeling that the Sabres are due simply because they can’t lose every game until the season ends, but then I’m compelled to ask: have you seen this team lately? They don’t look like they could beat good junior teams right now, let alone anyone in the NHL.
The Flames are young, hungry and they’re definitely going to need every last point they can get down the stretch if they’re going to play spring hockey, so look for the Flames to take the games they should win (like this one) to aid their playoff quest.
Score: 4-2 Flames
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