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5 THINGS - FLAMES @ RED WINGS

The Flames open a season-long five-game road trip tonight in the Motor City

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (31-25-6) at RED WINGS (15-44-4)

5 p.m. MT | TV: Sportsnet | RADIO: Sportsnet 960 The FAN

2018-19 Season Series: 1-1-0

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau (51)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (27)

Red Wings:

Points - Dylan Larkin (43)
Goals - Tyler Bertuzzi (18)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 20.1% (17th) / PK - 82.1% (9th)

Red Wings:

PP - 14.7% (29th) / PK - 75.0% (29th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:

Shot Attempts: 50.36% (14th)
High-Danger Chances: 50.69% (13th)

Red Wings:

Shot Attempts: 45.84% (31st)
High-Danger Chances: 44.54% (30th)

 

Video: Preview of the Flames-Red Wings in Detroit.

 


1. US

The Flames are coming off a hard-fought, 4-3 defeat to the NHL's top team, the Boston Bruins, on Friday.

The locals roared out of the gates with three goals in the first three-and-a-half minutes - including the opener only 20 seconds into the contest - to grab 2-0 and 3-1 leads.

But the Bruins clawed back and levelled the count before the period was out, courtesy of their captain, Patrice Bergeron. Brad Marchand then scored what turned out to be the winning goal early in the second period and held on for the one-goal victory.

Mikael Backlund scored twice, while Johnny Gaudreau tallied a single, and Cam Talbot stopped 19 of 23 shots in a losing effort.

It was a valiant effort for the Flames, who out-shot the Bruins 10-6 as part of a strong, third-period push, but it wasn't enough.

"They weren't giving us anything," Matthew Tkachuk said post-game. "The couple chances we had, we scored on. There's no way they were giving up a ton today. The way they play, their depth... They've got four lines that can wear you down. Their D move the puck very well and they defend very, very well. You saw that in the third. They're a top-tier team in this league. There are a lot of guys over there with a lot of playoff experience and they know how to play in those tight games. We had a couple chances there in the third, but not enough to try and continue to put one past him."

With the loss, the Flames' record falls to 31-25-6, and the club currently ranks fourth in the wild card, one point back of the final playoff spot with one game in hand.

"I thought we played them tight," said interim head coach Geoff Ward. "We had the scoring chances 12-11 at the end. Chances were even the last two periods. We felt we were tight enough on the defensive side of things. Offensively, we probably would have liked more likes, they would say the same thing and the played a pretty good defensive game against us. After the first 10 minutes, they really settled in and good teams do that."

This is the first of a season-long, five-game road trip for the Flames, who will travel to Boston, Nashville, Tampa Bay and Florida, before returning home to the friendly confines on Wednesday, Mar. 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It's a week with a lot of big games for us and we've got to look forward to that," Ward said.

Captain Mark Giordano (hamstring) has joined the team for this eight-day jaunt, and could play at some point - but there is currently no timeline for his return to the lineup.

Travis Hamonic is not the trip and remains week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

 

Video: "He also brings emotional leadership."

 

2. THEM

The Red Wings were officially eliminated from the playoffs with a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders Friday.

Jordan Eberle tallied a hat-trick to lead the way and help the Islanders end a four-game losing streak. Anthony Mantha scored and Jonathan Bernier made 36 saves for Wings, who are 3-14-1 in their last 18 games.

"It sucks to be in a spot where you're eliminated this early," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told Brian Compton of NHL.com. "We knew we've been out for too long, and there's no other word to describe it than it sucks, and that's a fact."

Indeed, been a tough year in Mo-Town, and a result of Friday's loss to the Isles, the Wings became the first team to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention prior to the trade deadline since the 2003-04 Penguins.

The club has amassed only 34 points in 63 games, and bring a league-worst goal differential of -108 into this evening's tilt.

"I think the first period wasn't enough from us," leading scorer Dylan Larkin told Compton. I think myself and my line (Robby Fabbri and Mantha), especially. We're put out there to generate offence, take care of the puck and manage it, and I didn't do that, especially. I didn't bring enough energy to spark the team, and I put that on myself there at the start to try and get something going and get the team going."

Ironically, two of the Wings' 14 wins this year have come against the Bruins - so despite the lopsided comparison on paper, this is a team still capable of slaying a giant.

The Flames need to approach this game with the same hard-working mentality as they did Friday; respect the opponent and recognize - as general manager Brad Treliving put it earlier this year - that there are no easy games on the schedule.

Turns out, the classic poker analogy still rings true.

"If you're looking for the easy game, you're it," Treliving said, playing off the old table-game rule that encourages high-rollers and amateurs alike to suss out the 'fool.'

Don't be the fool.

"There are no simple games now," Ward said. "We're down to the short strokes, the sprint. The one thing about teams like Detroit at this time of year, they're playing for jobs, they're playing loose, guys are getting opportunities to come up and play. And they're going to play hard.

"There are no easy games for us.

"We've got to go in there and play a real hard road game."

 

3. US VS. THEM

The Flames and Red Wings haven't hooked up since Oct. 17 when five different goal-scorers combined to give Calgary a convincing, 5-1 home victory.

Andrew Mangiapane , Elias Lindholm, Sam Bennett , Derek Ryan and Mark Giordano supplied the offence, while David Rittich made 27 saves.

Darren Helm - who, today, is a team-best -1 on the tilted plus/minus scale - was the only Wing to beat Rittich, while Jimmy Howard made 31 stops. Howard, by the way, has only two victories all year. With 24 losses (22 in regulation and two in overtime), a, 886 save percentage and a ballooned, 4.08 goals-against average, it has not been a fun year for the 35-year-old.

The Flames are 8-2-0 in their last 10 meetings and hold an all-time record of 74-68-15-5 against the Red Wings, including a 27-40-10-3 mark on the road.

This is the second and final meeting between these two teams.

 

Video: "Try to get started on the right foot here."

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: The Flames have been stellar on the road lately, winning five of their last seven games away from the Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary has an overall road record of 17-13-2 this season, and have the second-best points percentage in the NHL on the road since Dec. 1 (.733). ... THAT: With his two goals on Friday, Mikael Backlund tied Robert Reichel for the seventh-most points by a centre in Calgary Flames franchise history (354). Backlund trials Joe Nieuwendyk (564), Kent Nilsson (562), Guy Chouinard (529), Tom Lysiak (431), Joel Otto (428) and Sean Monahan (404). ... THE OTHER: Backlund has been on a tear recently, recording 11 points (6G, 5A) in his last eight games.

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Sam Bennett

Bennett continues to impress after moving to centre three games ago. The 23-year-old has three goals in that span, and has been a beast in the dot, scoring a 61.3% efficiency rate in the faceoff circle.

When he's been on the ice, 5-on-5, Bennett and the Flames have a 52.23% share of the shot attempts and 55.88% (19-15) of the scoring chances.

Red Wings - Tyler Bertuzzi

The second-round pick, 58th overall, in the 2013 Draft has really come into his own this year with 40 points (18G, 22A) in 63 games. Last month, Bertuzzi - the nephew of former Flame Todd - appeared the NHL All-Star Game, and has given the Wings a nice piece to build around for years to come.

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