Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Blackhawks
Notes from the Flames pre-game skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome
The Flames are coming off of two impressive wins at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Prior to the club's current homestand, the Flames failed to earn a home victory, falling in seven straight matches in Calgary.
The modest winning streak of two games, however, has given the team some new found confidence which captain Mark Giordano is hoping they can take advantage of tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I think we’ve been way more aggressive," said the captain. "As a team, creating more offence because of how aggressive we’ve been and not sitting back during the game, even when we’re down."
"I think that’s important against this team [Chicago], we know who we’re up against and obviously they have some really good players so we’re going to have to be aggressive all night."
To add to their confidence, the Flames have also put up strong performances in both meetings against the Hawks this season. Kris Russell tallied the overtime marker in Chicago to hand the Flames a 3-2 win on November 3rd. Reto Berra stole the show that night collecting his first NHL victory. The rematch, less than three weeks later at the Scotiabank Saddledome, saw the Flames open up a two goal lead only to have the Hawks strike three times in the final stanza and walk away with the win, something Giordano remembers well.
"I thought we have two really good games against them," said Giordano. "The overtime one in Chicago was great but even the one we played here at home I thought for fifty minutes of the game we were the better team, but that’s how dangerous this team is. They can outplay you for a few shifts and then they’ll score, so that’s what we have to be aware of tonight, for sure."
Flames veteren forward, Lee Stempniak, sites the teams play in their own zone as the reason for the recent success.
"I think we’ve done a lot better job playing defensively," said Stempniak. "We’re not the type of team that can go out and score five goals to win a game. We need to win games 3-2 and 2-1."
"I think we’ve done a better job of really eliminating the other team’s chances and from that it seems the puck will go in more and we’re getting some scoring. Last game against Nashville our powerplay came through in a huge way and that’s something we’ve struggled with lately and that can be a huge benefit; if games are tight the powerplay can be a huge difference and result in wins."
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHICAGO'S STRUGGLES
The Chicago Blackhawks have dropped their last three contests and only managed to find the scoresheet twice in their past two games. That's something the Hawks aren't use to and certainly won't continue for much longer.
"Yeah, they are going to be pretty hungry tonight," said Mark Giordano after the Flames morning skate. "I would image they’re a team that’s not use to losing too often and obviously they are going to try to get in the win column.
"They have a lot of [fire] power, but we have to stick to some of the good things we’ve been doing lately so hopefully it’s good enough."
The Flames blueliner also added that their recent aggressive play has contributed to better results and he thinks that is the winning formula against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"I think we’ve been way more aggressive. As a team, creating more offence because of how aggressive we’ve been and not sitting back during the game, even when we’re down. I think that’s important against this team, we know who we’re up against and obviously they have some really good players so we’re going to have to be aggressive all night."
Lee Stempniak reiterated his Captain's comments, adding that giving the Hawks too much room will result in a long night.
"They are a very good team, one of the best in the NHL, but at the same time if you give them too much respect and give them too much room they will embarrass you," Stempniak said. "So for us it’s a challenge to continue to play the way we want to play being aggressive and skating and being physical and really being a difficult team to play against and apply that to Chicago and make it hard on their skilled players."
"For us, we’re not a huge team and we’re not going to crush guys but we can finish our checks and angle and really play an ‘in your face’ game. I think that’s the challenge tonight."
Ladislav Smid will draw back in the linup after missing the last contest against Nashville. Paul Byron, recently called up blueliner, Chris Breen and Blair Jones will watch from the sidelines as Ben Street will draw in to centre the fourth line. Street will be flanked with Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth while Smid will be paired up with Dennis Wideman.
Reto Berra will also make his 21st start of the campaign tonight in goal for the Flames.
VERSUS THE BLACKHAWKS
All-time vs. the Blackhawks: 62-64-26-3-2
All-time vs. the Blackhawks in Calgary: 35-28-13-1-2
Last 10 games vs. the Blackhawks: 3-6-0-1
Last 10 games vs. the Blackhawksin Calgary: 4-4-1-1
Chicago has won the last two consecutive games in Calgary but the Flames have prevailed in four of the past six at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Chicago Blackhawks roster boasts 10 players who will be suiting up for their respective countries in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. That number is shared by both the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues as the most of any team in the NHL.
"What we’re seeing from TJ [Brodie] is very pleasant and basically unbelievable. Not that we weren’t expecting it, but it's faster than we expected and that’s great news." - Bob Hartley on the play of TJ Brodie.
THE CENTURY MARK
Bob Hartley coached his 100th game behind the bench for the Flames (37-52-11) and his 751st game as an NHL head coach. He has a career record of 367-278-61-45 for a .599 winning percentage.
MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
TJ Galiardi needs 4 points for 100.
Matt Stajan needs 4 games for 700.
Lance Bouma needs 9 games for 100.
Tonight's game between the Flames and Blackhawks will be aired on TSN and Sportsnet 960 The FAN (radio) at 7:30 PM MST.