BLUE JACKETS (3-6-1) VS. FLAMES (2-3-2)
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
7 P.M. TONIGHT
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: CD 102.5 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The Calgary Flames think they experienced a turning point in their season on Tuesday night in Detroit, but in the process, they were dealt some tough news on the injury front.
Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, the backbone of the Flames team for years, got tangled up with Red Wings forward Johan Franzen and left the game in the second period. Kiprusoff suffered a lower body injury on the play and is listed as day-to-day entering tonight's game at Nationwide Arena. Leland Irving, a promising young goaltending prospect, will get the start against the Blue Jackets and he's backed up by former Springfield Falcons property Danny Taylor, whom the Flames signed to a one-year deal yesterday.
Calgary's struggles have been primarily on home ice, where a 1-3-1 record has left the locals a bit restless. But the Flames have played well away from their friendly confines, picking up points in both of their road contests so far and capped off by their win over Detroit earlier this week.
The shortened season does not lend itself to quick cohesion, and teams around the NHL that have several new faces are finding out the hard way. The Flames are one example, adding players like Jiri Hudler, Roman Cervenka, Dennis Wideman and Steve Begin over the offseason to a primarily veteran group of players -- and the chemistry just hasn't been there at the start of the year.
One of the reasons the Flames have struggled at the start is their top offensive players: Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri, two of the premier goal scorers in the NHL, have combined for one goal and nine points in the first seven games. Calgary's led in scoring by Alex Tanguay's seven points and that's followed closely by Dennis Wideman (six points) and Curtis Glencross (six points), so it's safe to say first-year Flames head coach Bob Hartley is looking for more production from his top guns.
Columbus marks the second stop on Calgary's three-game road trip, as the Flames round out this swing with a weekend trip to Vancouver before heading home to play three straight games at the Scotiabank Saddledome. In their four meetings with the Blue Jackets last season, the Flames saw a mixed bag of results: they lost 4-1 at Nationwide Arena to start things off and then the final three meetings were all decided by shootouts, with the Blue Jackets winning both match-ups in Calgary.
Both teams have a lot to play for tonight, as they look to close the gap on eighth place in a very crowded Western Conference playoff picture. Through 10 games of this abbreviated NHL season, all 15 teams in the conference are within 12 points of each other and there are seven teams separated by three points below the playoff bar.
- The Blue Jackets get help on the blueline tonight as Nikita Nikitin returns to the lineup. He's been on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 29 with an upper body injury suffered in Minnesota.
- Irving has seen just 20 minutes of action this season with Kiprusoff shouldering the load between the pipes. His lone appearance was in relief of Kiprusoff earlier this week against the Red Wings.
- Two tidbits: the Blue Jackets lead the NHL in fighting majors with 14 after two fights in Tuesday's game with Los Angeles. They also moved into fifth in the NHL in total hits (delivering 27 on the Kings), now up to 244 on the season.
- Derick Brassard scored his 53rd career goal on Tuesday, tying him with Manny Malhotra for 10th place in Blue Jackets franchise history. Brassard has now recorded at least one point in his last three games (2-1-3).
- Fedor Tyutin earned his team-high seventh assist of the season on Tuesday. Tyutin continues to lead the Blue Jackets in scoring with eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 10 games played.
LW | #24
2013 STATS: 2-3-5, 4 GP
Before joining the Flames as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Hudler spent his entire career with the Detroit Red Wings organization. He was a member of Detroit's 2008 Stanley Cup championship team, scoring 14 points in 22 playoff games and playing a vital secondary scoring role. Hudler signed a four-year deal with Calgary to boost the offense, and he's been one of the Flames' most consistent forwards in the few games he's played. He's known for being a solid power play guy with a knack for being around the net at the right time.
COLUMBUS: Nikita Nikitin (upper body), probable for tonight; Cam Atkinson (IR); Adrian Aucoin (IR); James Wisniewski (upper body)
CALGARY: Miikka Kiprusoff (lower body)