Scouting the Flames: 06.12.09
A look at the Flames competition over the coming week
After going 4-1-0 on their season-high six-game road swing, the Calgary Flames are aiming on ending their lengthy trip on a positive note before heading back to Calgary.
The Flames will make one more stop, in Los Angeles, before heading back to Calgary.
Miikka Kiprusoff was nothing short of excellent during Saturday's 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. The netminder made 35 saves in the victory and may have made the save of the year during the tilt. His heel kick save, made while laying on stomach, has been on every sports highlight reel since the win and has his teammates raving not only about his play on Saturday but all season.
"Save of the century," was all Dustin Boyd had to say about the stop.
"Unreal. I don’t know how he even saw it. He was on his stomach," Daymond Langkow told the assorted media in awe.
Another player who heads into the head on a hot streak is Kiprusoff's fellow Finn, Olli Jokinen. The centerman has three goals his last four games and six points in that span.
When asked about his performance, Jokinen shrugged off praise and deflected to his goaltender.
"He gives us a chance to win every night, you know. He’s unbelievable. He’s been our best player pretty much every single night," he said. "He’s a key guy. We’ve got tonnes of confidence when he’s in the net."
Flames vs. Kings, Monday, Dec. 7, 8:30 p.m. MST at the Staples Center, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
Coming into Monday night's game, the Los Angeles Kings will have one thing on their mind: containing Jarome Iginla. In the first game of the four-game season series, the captain had three tallies in the 5-2 win and was unstoppable at both ends of the rink.
"Iginla played a wail of a game, just not the fact that he scored. He was just rock solid in a lot of areas," Sutter said after the win.
The Kings are sitting at fifth place in the Western Conference with 37 points. They've won three of their last five but feel their game has been slipping a bit in terms of defensive stability. They're currently sitting at second in the league in average shots on net at 27 (only Chicago allows less with a 24.4 average) but they've allowed at least 30 shots on net in their last five games.
Defenseman Sean O'Donnell believes his team has lost a bit of the grit that has brought them so much success this campaign.
"One of the things that we're trying to harp on is, I really believe that we have one of the better group of forwards, as far as cycling and playing down in their end," O’Donnell told LosAngelesKings.com. "When we're playing our game, we can tire a lot of teams out defensively. I think what that does is, even though it might not look the prettiest, and guys might get frustrated because they're not getting the quality chances all at once, and not getting the nice 2-on-1s or 3-on-2s, you're also eliminating the other team from being in your end. You're tiring them down.
"It's not always a glamorous way to play, but it's effective. It's almost like a running game in football. You pound the team and you pound the team and you pound the team, and then the other plays will open up. But I think we still need to establish that identity, that running game, whatever you want to call it, that teams know."
The Kings are hoping to get some more help on the blueline on Monday. Veteran Rob Scuderi has been sidelined with a lower body injury but says he should be ready on Monday.
"It's kind of been `two steps forward and one step back'," Scuderi told LosAngelesKings.com, "but it's felt really good as of late. I would really like to play some games before we have this really long break coming up (after Dec. 17). I don't think I need any more time off. I think I'm aiming to play vs. Calgary."
Anze Kopitar still leads in the Kings in scoring but the Slovenian forward has cooled off lately. He only has two assists in his last five games and is a -3 in that stretch. His last goal came on Nov. 9 against the Blackhawks - a 12-game drought. He has 14 goals and 35 points this season and is fourth in league scoring.
Jonathan Quick has been solid in net. He's collected points in his last four games and has a 16-9-3 record. His GAA is a respectable 2.72 and his save percentage is .899.
The two teams will meet two more times in December, on the 17th and 30th, to finish off the four-game season series.
Flames vs. Thrashers, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
The Flames finally make their way back to the C of Red on Wednesday but there won't be any time to rest as they'll be taking on the red-hot Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday.
Once known as perennial basement dwellers in the Eastern Conference, the Thrashers have been on a torrid pace over the last month and have vaulted themselves to second place in the Southeast Division with 33 points. They put together a 9-3-2 record last month, setting a franchise record for their best November ever, and tied another franchise record for points in a month with 20.
The Thrashers success has been due to an offensive outburst. Captain Ilya Kovalchuk has been his usual incredible self, potting 16 goals and 26 points in his 20 games this season, but it's been his supporting cast that has surprised many. Atlanta's forwards, minus Kovalchuk, have scored 49 goals this season and three of them have eight or more tallies to their names.
With that firepower, the Thrashers are the highest scoring team in the entire NHL, averaging 3.46 goals a game.
Rookie Evander Kane not only broke into the league this season but did so with a bang. He has eight goals and 13 points this season and has impressed the coaching staff.
"He doesn’t seem like a rookie to me" head coach John Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He makes a few young mistakes, but for the most part he’s gung-ho all the time. He’s chasing pucks, he’s strong on the wall and he has eight goals already - not playing the power play. I’m going to have to find him some more ice time."
The 18 year-old has been in a bit of a slump lately. He's only scored a single goal in his last five outings so his coaches may up his usual 15:00 of ice time to help boost his offense.
The Flames have had great success over the Thrashers at home. In four meetings at the Saddledome, the Flames have gone 4-0-0 and have outscored Atlanta 18-7. This is the first and only game between the two clubs this season.
Flames vs. Wild, Friday, Dec. 11, 7:00 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary Flames PPV & The FAN 960
After a sluggish start to the season, the Minnesota Wild have picked up their game and rattled off five straight wins to the put them in fourth place in the Northwest Division with 29 points.
"Five-on-five, we have really improved over the last 10 or 12 games," Andrew Brunette told the Associated Press. "I think it is contagious. When you get enough guys doing the right things everybody falls in line.
"We are getting scoring opportunities and goals from each line over the last 10 games. The big thing is we are getting more pucks on net. We are more aggressive on the forecheck. We have done a real good job of cycling the puck."
Brunette, the team's leading goal-scorer with 10 tallies, has been on a roll lately. He's amassed nine points in his last five outings (2 g, 7 a) and has scored a game-winner in that span. He's also one of the few Wild players who are on the positive side of the plus/minus ratings. In 28 games, he's a +2.
After signing Martin Havlat in the off-season, the Wild were expecting him to produce top-line points but that hasn't been the case so far. The winger only has two goals and 11 points in his 22 games and is a -17 on the year. He may be starting to heat up though as he had two helpers in the team's 5-3 win over the Predators on Saturday.
"Havlat was good," head coach Todd Richards said. "He recognized where their defenders were. A lot of times with an aggressive team you can find someone alone in front of the net."
A big part of their recent success has been a willingness to shot the puck at the net from all areas. Richards believes this team needs to do this in order to maintain their winning ways.
"We are preaching shooting from all angles," Richards said. "We are preaching getting players in front of the net. We are starting to score goals.
"Hopefully, the guys are starting to see the result of their hard work."
Goaltending in Minnesota hasn't been an issue this year. Kiprusoff's Finnish counterpart Niklas Backstrom is in the midst of the strong season, posting a 2.70 GAA and .906 save percentage. He also has a winning record this season, going 11-9-3. Backstrom has four wins in his last five starts and has points in all five of those games. This game will be on the Finnish Olympic squad's radar as they're currently try to finalize their roster for Vancouver. Backstrom and Kiprusoff are the frontrunners for the starting goaltending position.
This is the first game in the six-game season series. They next time these two teams will clash is Jan 6, 2010, in Minnesota.
Flames vs. Avalanche, Dec. 13, 6:00 p.m. MST at the Pepsi Center, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
Once a dominant force in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche have started to show weaknesses over the past few weeks. The Avs have lost three of their last five and seven of their last ten but still remain in second place in the Northwest Division with 38 points.
The Avs were dealt a huge blow when workhorse netminder Craig Anderson was run into by Florida Panther Keith Ballard. He's been out since Dec. 2 with a stiff neck and is listed as day-to-day.
Filling in for the starting goaltender is Peter Budaj. The 27 year-old has played in three straight games and will continue to the fill the role of starter as Anderson heals.
"I think he's a pretty resilient guy," head coach Joe Sacco said in the media scrum after the Avalanche's 3-2 victory over Columbus on Saturday. "It's been a tough go for him over the past couple of months here. He understood his role, he worked hard, and he prepared himself so when his opportunity came he was ready. He's done a real solid job for us the last couple of games."
Budaj is 2-2-1 this season with a 3.24 GAA and .893 save percentage. It's unlikely Anderson will still be sidelined with an injury by Sunday unless there's a regression in his recovery. Anderson has been in net for both of the Avs victories over the Flames this season. He has 2.65 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
Offensively, the Avs are lead by 23 year-old Paul Stastny. The forward has seven goals and 31 points in 31 games this season and has seven in his last five games.Trailing him is Wojtek Wolski with 11 goals and 27 points.Wolski is coming off a two-point perform
ance against the Blue Jackets on Saturday. He's also scored a game-winner against the Flames earlier in the year.
This is the third game of the six-game season series between the two. The next time they'll meet is Jan. 10, 2010 in Calgary.