Scouting the Flames: 08.11.09
Taking a look at the Flames competition over the next week
November has treated the Flames well. In the past week, the Flames have rallied off three straight wins, had their captain come alive with four goals in three games and showed much more intensity than they did in their last few games in October.
Jarome Iginla feels the team needs to maintain the high competitive level they played with during their two road wins last week.
"We've got to carry over what we did on the road (last week). On the road, as a group, we battled harder," Iginla said. "We had more second and third efforts. We probably got a little bit away from the battling and the competing and I think in the last couple of games that we got back to that. The first thing is that compete level which is what makes our team the team that we are. When we're having success, that's what we do first."
The Flames will embark on a thre-game Eastern road swing next week. The Flames will spend the majority of the month as nomads, playing only three games at home in the next 22 days.
Flames vs. Canadiens, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 5:30 p.m. at the Bell Centre, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
The Montreal Canadiens aren't going to be a happy crew when the Flames head into the Bell Centre on Tuesday. The Habs fell out of a playoff position on Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated them by a score of 3-1. They now have lost four of their last six and sport a 8-9-0 record.
Goaltending has been a touchy subject in Montreal. While Carey Price is the Canadiens starting netminder, he has had dismal season. In the 10 games he's started, he's won a mere three and two of those were the first games of the season. His last win came against Boston on Nov. 5. The 22 year-old has a 3.30 GAA and a .894 save percentage. In his last 42 starts, Price has only won 10 games.
Jaroslav Halak has farred much better in net, going 5-2-0 in his seven starts. It is unknown if the coaching staff will hand over the goaltending reins to Halak this week but their confidence in Price has to be dwindling.
The Canadiens blueline took a big hit early in the season when they lost defenseman Andrei Markov for at least four months with severed tendons in his ankle. The defensive core took even more blows as the regular season rolled on when both Ryan O'Byrne and Hal Gill were taken out of the action with injuries. To bolster the depleted defense, the Habs picked up Jay Leach off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. The 30 year-old is expected to suit up against the Flames.
"I'm assuming I'll play the same way I played in Jersey - stay at home, kill penalties if I can and try not to screw it up," Leach told the Canadian Press when he was asked about what he expected the style of play to be like.
He played 24 games for Brent Sutter's Devils last season. He has a single assist in his NHL career.
One bright spot for the Canadiens has been former Flame Michael Cammalleri. The winger is leading the team in scoring with seven goals and 14 points and he's fired more shots on net (62) than any other Hab. He's got two goals in his last five games but hasn't scored in the past two tilts. Despite his success in Montreal, Cammalleri maintains there is still a lot of work to be done.
"I like our team," Cammalleri told ESPN. "But I think we could have done a lot better than we have at this point. We've definitely fought and struggled to find consistency this year."
Flames vs. Sabres, Friday, Nov.13, 5:30 p.m. at the HSBC Arena, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
The Buffalo Sabres have shocked a few people with their quick start this season. The Sabres are 9-4-1 this season and sit atop the Northeast Division with 19 points but head into the week with consecutive losses hanging over their heads.
"Our game has lacked energy for the last three games," head coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News after Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.
The players aren't pleased with the compete level on the ice either.
"When we're a good team, we're all pulling in the same direction," forward Jason Pominville stated. "Our support is good. We're making short passes and getting out of our zone easily. Our last couple of games, it hasn't been like that. I think we've given up more chances against in the last two games than all of our previous games."
A major factor in the team's success has been goaltending. Ryan Miller has been stellar for the Sabres, holding a 1.89 GAA and a .936 save percentage. He's gone 9-2-1 in his 12 starts this season. He has two shutouts this season with the most recent coming on Nov. 4 in the Sabres 3-0 win over the New York Islanders. Miller is well-rested after having the night off on Saturday and is expected to be in net against the Flames.
Buffalo has received some help offensively from rookie blueliner Tyler Myers. The youngster is fifth in team scoring, with three goals and eight point, and has a +6 rating on his 14 games played. The former Kelowna Rocket is still finding his way defensively but the learning curve has been sharp. He's been paired with veteran Henrik Tallinder which has helped develop his game.
"His maturity is a little bit above his age," Ruff said of Myers. "He has been able to show a lot of composure in situations that you would not expect from a young player. That is on the offensive side and the defensive side."
Tim Connolly is leading the Sabres offensively this season. The 28 year-old has four goals and 13 points in 14 games this season and has six points in his last five games.
The last time the Flames visited the Sabres was Feb. 10, 2007 when they fell 3-2 in overtime. The Sabres have won the last five meetings in Buffalo, outscoring the Flames 22-9, but the Flames have won three of the last five meetings overall (four of which were held in Calgary) and outscored the Sabres 14-8 in that span.
Flames vs. Leafs, Saturday, Nov. 14, 5:00 p.m. at the Air Canada Centre, CBC & The FAN 960
Maple Leaf fans can breath a sigh of relief after seeing Saturday night's results - Toronto no longer holds the the distinction of having the least amount of wins in the entire league. With a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, the Leafs earned their third win of the year while the Carolina Hurricanes lost yet another game on Saturday night, leaving them in the basement with a mere two wins on the season.
In fact, the Leafs come into the week on two straight wins. They defeated the disastorious Hurricanes on Friday before handing Detroit a loss the next night.
"It seems to be that things are falling into place,'' former Flame Wayne Primeau told the Associated Press. "We're finding ways to get points rather than finding ways to lose.''
Brian Burke's two biggest acquisitions came up big for the team against the Wings. Phil Kessel played his third game for the Leafs and scored his first of the year on Saturday night. Jonas Gustavsson made 27 saves in the win. The 25 year-old goaltender has played in all three Leafs victories this year.
"When you get solid goaltending it certainly helps,'' head coach Ron Wilson said. "I think a big part of the game was a difference in the goaltending on both sides. Obviously having Phil Kessel in there as well, we just have a different feel."
Defenseman Tomas Kaberle leads the Leafs in points with 18. The blueliner has two goals and 16 helpers in 15 games this year. Trailing him is forward Mikhail Grabovski who has three goals and 12 points.
The last time the Flames visited the Air Canada Centre was Mar. 14, 2009 when lost a wild 8-6 game. Toronto has won three of the last five meetings.
Given both the back-to-back situation and his last performance in net, don't be surprised to see Curtis McElhinney get the start against the Leafs.
"It’s not about placing him in the right situation, it’s about him earning it,” said goaltending coach Jamie McLennan last week. "Any situation he’s in, he’s got to rise to the challenge, and he did that the other night coming in when Kipper wasn’t feeling well. That’s his job. Curtis has definitely given himself a right to play."