The Flames (31-22-8) sit in sixth place, but are just four points out of third in the tight race for playoff position in the Western Conference.
“Right now they are in the playoff hunt and I don’t think they can afford to have any let downs,” Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said yesterday. “So standing on this side of the fence I’d say they’re ready to go.”
The Bruins (33-19-7) have opened a four-point gap between themselves and the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division.
While Montreal squares off against the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks tonight, the Bruins are looking to take two points from Calgary to tie the idle Tampa Bay Lightning at 75 points for second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning will remain in the second place slot even if the B’s win because they will have a game in hand. Tampa Bay will make up that game Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.Scouting the Flames
|Montreal Canadiens' Jeff Halpern (15) and Yannick Weber, left, from Switzerland, chase Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla (12) during the second period of the NHL Heritage Classic in Calgary, Alberta, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh) |
The Flames, led by right-winger Jarome Iginla’s 25-32-57 line, find themselves second in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference, behind only the Vancouver Canucks, whose 85 points top the NHL.
Calgary has an 18-9-3 record at home this season, bolstered by the 7-1-2 record they hold in their last ten home games.
The Flames have the same 7-1-2 record in their last ten games overall.
“They’re on a hot roll here right now and they’re playing really good hockey,” said B’s defenseman Adam McQuaid
Julien agrees, citing hard work and commitment as key factors in Calgary’s turn-around.
“They compete hard and they compete smart and I think that’s what has been their turnaround right now,” he said. “They’re a confident group, you can tell in their play and you can tell in their demeanor.”
The Flames’ recent winning ways have been led by their back end. Calgary’s starting goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has played 3,074 minutes this season, second most in the NHL behind only Montreal netminder Carey Price’s 3,154 minutes.
In addition, Kiprusoff has four shutouts to go along with his 27 wins, which ties him for ninth in the league in shutouts and third in wins.
But he doesn’t do it alone.
The Flames also have two of the league’s leading defensive scorers in Anton Babchuk and Mark Giordano.
Giordano has 5-23-28 totals to go along with his 52 penalty minutes. Averaging 23:08 minutes on ice per game, Giordano has recorded 125 shots and two power play goals.
Babchuk tops Giordano is scoring with a 9-20-29 line, while remaining solid defensively with a plus-6 rating, averaging 16:25 minutes on ice per game.
“They’re very strong down low protecting the puck and making plays,” Julien said yesterday.
The Flames are coming off an exciting weekend as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 in front of over 41,000 fans in the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
“I’m sure there is a lot of excitement with their last game being the Heritage Classic there, so we’re up against another challenge here,” McQuaid said.Kaberle Should Bolster PP
|Kaberle warms up prior to taking on the Ottawa Senators in NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011. Kaberle was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick) |
Despite the B’s newest acquisition, Tomas Kaberle, missing the team’s weekend practice while tending to matters in Toronto, the Bruins have no doubt their new defenseman will fit right in to man-advantage situations.
Asked if Kaberle would have any trouble jumping right into gear with the Bruins, despite the lack of practice time, veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
said, "I think he knows the system and everybody knows what to do.
"He’s a great power-play guy so he knows where to put the puck and he knows how to get open.
"So it’s not a problem I think with him not being here and I think his experience can make up for it."
Seidenberg thinks that Kaberle has and will contribute immediately.
"Yeah, definitely," he said. "I mean you saw him step in without backing once [in Ottawa].
"And he’s a guy who created good set-ups and he looks at the net for his one-timers too."
Kaberle joined the Bruins in Ottawa for their 4-2 win on Friday and posted 19:34 of ice time, including 5:44 of power play time.
“Well he’s going to be a great guy for our team," said rookie Steve Kampfer. "Hopefully he can spark our power play a little bit, get it going.
"In terms of myself, I’m really excited to get to watch him first hand because he’s a puck-moving defenseman and I try to be one.
"So, for me, to learn things from him, and get to watch him day-in and day-out of how he sees the ice, how he makes plays will probably be helpful for me in the future and hopefully he stays around for a little bit longer," he said.
Julien agreed with his defensemen -- young and old.
"You know we were looking for somebody from the back end to quarterback our power play and also help us move the puck better," said Julien. "And there is no doubt [Kaberle] is capable of doing that." Rookies Make an Impact
|Marchand gets hi-fives from the bench after scoring against the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick) |
While Calgary hasn’t relied on rookie production this season – they’ve had four rookies appear in a total of 77 games played with combined scoring totals of 7-11-18 — the Bruins have taken advantage of their young talent.
Boston has had eight rookies appear in a total of 217 man-games. The B’s rookies have posted a combined 36-44-80 scoring line thus far this season.
Four of those Boston rookies, Brad Marchand
, Tyler Seguin
, Steven Kampfer and Adam McQuaid
, remain on the Bruins roster. Kampfer is the only rookie still on the team who didn’t start the season with Boston, as he was recalled from Providence on Dec. 8 on an emergency basis.
Kampfer, who has been paired with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara
most of his 32 career NHL games, has a 4-5-9 scoring line to go along with a plus-10 rating.
McQuaid, another B’s rookie defenseman, netted his first career NHL goal on Dec. 9 in the Bruins 8-6 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
McQuaid is second in the league in rookie plus/minus with a plus-21 mark through his 45 games played this season, behind only fellow Bruin rookie Marchand.
Marchand, who is among rookie leaders in seven categories, leads NHL rookies in plus/minus with a plus-23.
He is tied for the NHL lead in shorthanded goals with four and his 17.1 percent shooting percentage leads all rookies.
Marchand’s 18-15-33 scoring line puts him eighth on the Bruins roster, but sixth among NHL rookies.
He leads fellow Bruins rookie forward Seguin by 11 points.
Seguin’s 10-11-21 scoring line puts him 15th among rookies in points, and 11th in goals.
Recently, Seguin hit the 10-goal mark, joining Marchand, which is the first time two Bruins rookies have reached 10 goals since the 1992-93 season with three new B's, Steve Heinze, Ted Donato and Joey Juneau, achieved the feat.Player Profile: Shawn Thornton
In addition to being the B’s enforcer and popular stop for the Bruins media, veteran forward Shawn Thornton
is also having one of his best statistical seasons of his career.
Thornton’s eight goals and seven assists are both career highs.
Although Thornton has been contributing offensively this year, playing on the Bruins ‘energy’ line, it’s his tough-guy demeanor and tendency to fight that puts him, and the B’s, over the top.
Thornton has fought 13 times this season (85 in his career) and Boston has a 9-3-1 record when he recieves a fighting major.
Five of his eight goals have come in games where he has fought. The Bruins are 4-0 in those games, outscoring opponents 21-8.
Thornton has fought 25 of the 30 NHL teams, including the Calgary Flames.
Calgary enforcer Tim Jackman, who leads the Flames in fighting majors with 10, has squared off with Thornton twice in their careers. Both fights came in 2009 when Jackman played for the New York Islanders. ---Hannah Becker & Mike Brown