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5 THINGS - FLAMES VS. BLACKHAWKS

The Flames look to ring in the new year in style - with a victory over Chicago

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (20-16-5) vs. BLACKHAWKS (17-17-6)

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

2019-20 Season Series: 0-0-0

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk (35)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (16)

Blackhawks:

Points - Patrick Kane (47)
Goals - Kane (2)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 18.9% (16th) / PK - 84.0% (4th)

Blackhawks:

PP - 15.1% (26th) / PK - 82.1% (9th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:    

Shot Attempts: 50.42% (12th)
High-Danger Chances: 49.37% (19th)

Blackhawks:

Shot Attempts: 47.61% (25th)
High-Danger Chances: 43.62% (30th)

 

Video: Brendan Parker sets up tonight's tilt


1. US

The Flames are looking to get back in the win column after falling 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.

Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin supplied the offence, but after surrendering the first three goals of the game - all in a one-sided opening frame - the Flames were unable to claw back.

David Rittich was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots in the first 10 minutes and change. Cam Talbot tagged in and was excellent the rest of the way, stopping 19 of the 20 he faced.

It was another in a long line of strong nights for the veteran, as he continues to give the Flames everything (and more) they could ask of a backup.  

In his last five appearances - posting a 2-2-0 record - Talbot has logged save percentages of .909, .958, .935, .939 and .950.

The 32-year-old also hit a major career milestone that night, suiting up in his 300th career game.

"The route that I took to get here wasn't an easy road by any means, so to hit that milestone last night was pretty special," he said. "I didn't play my first game until I was 26 years old, so it was definitely a long time coming, but it makes you appreciate it that much more and work that much harder to stay and get those opportunities."

The Flames were back on the ice with a half-hour-long practice on Monday, and after putting in some good work during the formal portion of the skate, they finished things off with a fun game of soccer/handball that saw Milan Lucic grab the headlines with a stellar showing in net.

"It's important we put (Sunday's) game behind us," interim head coach Geoff Ward said. "We had a little bit of fun to end off practice, so now they can leave the rink feeling good, clear in the head, and can get ready for the game."

Ward expects a better than what he saw the other night. With the Blackhawks trailing the Flames by only five points in the wild-card race, flushing that game and getting back to their "style," their "pace," and "everything that goes into what we do," should add some spice to this New Year's bash.

"They're a good team," he said of the Blackhawks. "We respect the fact that they can be extremely dangerous. They've got high-end skill. … But can't be looking at that and thinking that this is an easy game. For us, if anything else, we have to understand that coming off two divisional games, we still need to be emotionally engaged. Sometimes after you come off two games like that, sometimes you can take your foot off the accelerator a little bit. ... We can't take that approach. For us, every game counts, every game is important, and a rebound for us is the most important thing.

"Our response (tonight) is going to say a lot."

 

Video: "We want to come out with a better effort"

 

2. THEM

The Blackhawks are coming off a 3-2 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, and have now won two straight and four of their last five.

Chicago entered the third period trailing 2-0, but goals by Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson leveled the count before Patrick Kane nabbed the winner in the skills contest.

Kane is ripping it up again this year, has 11 points (6G, 5A) in his last eight games, and leads the Blackhawks 47 points (20G, 27A) on the season - 19 more than the second-best Hawk, captain Jonathan Toews.

Robin Lehner made 31 saves for the Hawks to win for the first time (in four tries) in the shootout this year.

"This was one of those games that maybe in the first two periods we didn't deserve to win the game, but that's how hockey works sometimes," Lehner told Craig Merz of NHL.com. "We stuck with it, we got our goals, and we really battled hard to get back."

The Blackhawks were a perfect 3-for-3 on the PK and have now killed 15 straight penalties over their last six games.

The Hawks are battling a number of injuries, with forwards Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula, along with defencemen Brent Seabrook and Calvin de Haan, all out.

The team announced on Boxing Day that Seabrook would undergo three separate surgeries over the next few months to repair his right shoulder, and both hips. De Haan, who had surgery on the same shoulder last off-season, would also go under the knife.

Both will miss the remainder of the season.

"What he does for this team is above and beyond what anyone could imagine, to be honest with you," Kane told Chris Kuc of ChicagoBlackhawks.com. "He's such a good guy in the room. The aura in the locker-room isn't the same when he's not around. He's a huge part of this team. I'm sure if you go up and down the guys here, the guys that have played here in the past and ask who the closest guy on the team was to them, I'm sure a lot of them would say 'Seabs.' He's a fun guy to be around, always joking around, always chirping guys. (If) you mess up your words … if 'Seabs' is around, he's going to get on you for it. Nothing ever gets by him. But he's a great teammate, great in the locker-room."

Saad, meanwhile, is out for the three weeks with a right ankle injury, while Shaw and Caggiula are both out indefinitely. Neither player is on the road trip.

This is the second of a three-game road trip for the Hawks, who are 8-8-3 away from the United Center this year.

 

Video: Toews, Kane and coach Colliton on facing the Flames

 

3. US VS. THEM

This is the first of three meetings between these two teams. The clubs will reconnect next week in Illinois, before wrapping up the season series on Feb. 15, 2020 back at the 'Dome.

Last year, the Flames won all three games, out-scoring the Hawks 12-8 in the process.

Elias Lindholm led all skaters in head-to-head scoring, recording seven points (1G, 6A), while Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau had six each.

Monahan's four goals paced both clubs, as he managed the find the scoresheet in all three games - including a two-goal effort in a 5-3 victory on Nov. 3, 2018.

The Flames are 7-3-0 in their last 10 regular-season meetings and hold an all-time record of 72-70-26-5 against the Hawks, including a 40-31-13-3 mark at home.

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: The Flames are playing on New Year's Eve for the seventh straight year. Since Dec. 31, 2013, they have a record of 4-2-0, with their most recent victory coming last year when they dismantled the San Jose Sharks 8-5. ... THAT: Entering tonight's contest, the Flames have a record of 46-29-8 for 100 points in the 2019 calendar year. Their 256 goals in the same span are the 11th-most in the NHL. ... THE OTHER: Assistant coach Ryan Huska was taken by the Blackhawks in the third round, 76th overall, in the 1993 NHL Draft. Huska staked in just one game for the Hawks - in 1997-98 - and it just so happened to be against the Flames.

 

Video: A look at the best moments of the 2010's!

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Elias Lindholm

Following Friday's win over the Edmonton Oilers, interim head coach Geoff Ward compared Lindholm to one of the best two-way pivots in the history of the game - Patrice Bergeron.

The gifted, right-shot centre had another strong outing on Sunday, recording an assist, leading the Flames with a 71.43% Corsi, and topping all forwards with over 21 minutes of ice time.

Blackhawks - Dominik Kubalik

The rookie is really coming on, scoring thrice and adding a pair of helpers in his last five outings. Kubalik, a 24-year-old product of Plzen, Czech Republic, spent the past two years in the Swiss National League, pacing the 12-team loop with 57 points (25G, 22A) last year. Originally taken by the LA Kings in the seventh round, 191st overall, in the 2013 Draft, the Blackhawks acquired Kubalik's rights in a January, 2019 trade.

In this, his first season in the North American pro ranks, the 6-foot-2, 179-lb. winger has 11 goals and 18 points in 38 games.  

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