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5 THINGS - FLAMES VS. BLUES

Flames return from the break looking to get back in the win column

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (26-19-5) vs. BLUES (30-12-8)

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

2019-20 Season Series: 0-1-1

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk (38)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (20)

Blues:

Points - David Perron (50)
Goals - Perron (21)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 18.5% (22nd) / PK - 82.5% (7th)

Blues:

PP - 25.3% (4th) / PK - 81.7% (14th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:

Shot Attempts: 50.66% (12th)
High-Danger Chances: 49.62% (19th)

Blues:

Shot Attempts: 50.27% (14th)
High-Danger Chances: 47.78% (26th)

 

Video: Brendan Parker sets up tonight's tilt


1. US

Goodbye, bye week, and welcome to the stretch run.

The boys return from the break looking to find their footing offensively and keep pace with the division-leading Vancouver Canucks

The Flames - who officially sit third, but are tied with the Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights with 57 points - are aiming to get back in the win column after falling 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators prior to the holidays.

The defeat capped a rollercoaster road trip that saw the crew finish with a 1-1-1 record, while scoring a sparse three goals in the process.  

However, the Flames did have one of their strongest offensive efforts of the season, with 42 shots fired the way of Sens goalie Marcus Hogberg, but the netminder stood tall and was the difference in what could have been a one-sided result the other way.

In all, the visitors had 72.92% (70-26) of the even-strength shot attempts, 70.18% (40-17) of the scoring chances, 54.55% (12-10) of the Grade-A looks, and they won the expected goal share 3.29 to 1.39.

"You out-shoot a team 15-3 in the first - and not only do we out-shoot them, but we had some quality looks and could have put one in," said captain Mark Giordano . "We had our legs going and I think in the second period, once we got down two and then three, then you really start chasing the game. That's the only time that they got chances off of us pressing and trying to score.

"Obviously, being down, you're going to take chances - and that's when they started generating more and more. That's the game; that's the season. Some nights, you deserve to be down but you're up and you win them.

"Then, a night like tonight, I felt like a night like tonight, you deserve better."

Still, the Flames have to be happy with the position they've put themselves in coming out of the break.

With six wins in their past eight games, they're right in the thick of it with 32 games left, and can make a real statement with a big game against the defending Cup champs, and a pair against the Oilers this week.

Let's see what they're made of.

"If we went back here - two months ago - and said that at this break, we'd be in this position, we'd probably take it, right?" Giordano said. "We're in a spot right now and we want to come out of the gate with lots of emotion and energy, and I'm sure we will."

On Sunday, the Flames recalled forward Buddy Robinson from the Stockton Heat. The 6-foot-6, 225-lb. winger leads the AHL club with 16 goals, and sits fourth in overall scoring with 30 points in 40 games.

Robinson is an option and could draw in against the Blues, according to interim head coach Geoff Ward.

"It was unexpected, for sure," Robinson said. "We just started the (AHL All-Star) break and I was kind of unwinding a bit. But I got the call and turned around and headed to the airport the next morning.

"I'm here, didn't miss a beat, and didn't really have any days off the ice. It's almost better that way.

"There's no question that I'm a big guy, and that's what everyone notices first. You've got to go out there and play my own game, which is a big, physical game down low in the offensive zone. In the D zone, kill penalties - I have a long stick, so use that to break up plays on the PK. ... I think if I do that, I can make a name for myself here. I know I'm a little older than most of the guys are when they get their shot, but I'm just hoping to work hard here and find myself in the lineup once or twice to show that I can play."

 

Video: "We've got to get into a playoff mindset"

 

2. THEM

The Blues were in action last night, falling 3-1 to the Vancouver Canucks to open a four-game, all-Canadian road trip.

Zach Sanford scored and Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Blues, who have lost three straight (0-2-1) but continue to lead the Western Conference.

J.T. Miller had a pair of second-period strikes for the homeside, as the Canucks overcame an early deficit to win their ninth straight at home, and improve to 12-3-0 in their past 15 games overall.

The Canucks now hold a three-point lead on the Oilers and Flames for first in the Pacific.

"We created a lot of good chances," Blues coach Craig Berube told Kevin Woodley of NHL.com. "We've got to bury a couple. The goalie played well, but we can shoot the puck a little better and capitalize on some chances."

The Blues out-shot the Canucks 37-26 overall, including a wide, 28-16 margin in the final 40 minutes.

"We had a great mentality in the third being down 2-1," Brayden Schenn said. "Everyone had chances, everyone was cycling, [defencemen] were involved, everyone put up a solid effort in the third period.

"At the end of the day, we weren't able to buy one."

The game marked the return of star defenceman Colton Parayko to the Blues' lineup. The 26-year-old had been out nearly a month with an upper-body injury, but thanks to the bye week, missed only games.

Parayko - a product of St. Albert, Alta. - logged 19:37 in his return, recording one shot on goal and two penalty minutes.

Forward Sammy Blais was also activated off injured reserve, and is expected to return after missing 28 games due to a right wrist injury.

Sophomore goalie Jordan Binnington was given some additional time to rest up after appearing at the NHL All-Star festivities over the weekend, so he is likely get the call between the pipes for the visitors this evening.

Binnington has a 22-8-5 record, along with a .912 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average in 35 appearances this year.

On Sunday, the Blues placed former Flame Troy Brouwer on waivers. The 34-year-old cleared and was then assigned to the club's AHL affiliate on Monday.

Brouwer has one goal in 10 games with the Blues after signing a one-year deal back on Nov. 20, 2019.

 

3. US VS. THEM

This is the third and final meeting between these two teams, with the Flames looking to snag their first win.

The Flames earned a valuable single point in the only other encounter at the Scotiabank Saddledome this year, with the homeside overcoming a late, two-goal deficit to force overtime, until the Blues' leading goal-getter, David Perron, potted the winner on a powerplay 2:46 in.

Twelve days later, the Blues earned a 5-0 victory, with Zach Sanford, Oskar Sundqvist (2), Perron and Vince Dunn supplying the offence. Jordan Binnington stopped all 40 shots he faced to pick up the shutout.

The Flames are 5-4-1 in their last 10 regular-season meetings and hold an all-time record of 80-78-15-4 against the Blues, including a 44-35-6-3 mark at home.

 

Video: Condensed Game: Blues @ Flames

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: Sean Monahan sits at 399 career points entering tonight's game. The 25-year-old has the 14th-most points in franchise history and can become only the 14th player in Calgary history to notch 400 career points as a member of the Flames. Monahan is only seven points away from catching Lanny McDonald (406 points) on the all-time list. ... THAT: Tonight, the Flames enter their seventh back-to-back scenario of the season tonight, as they will travel to Edmonton for Round 3 of the Battle of Alberta immediately after the game. The Flames have a record of 3-3-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets this year. ... THE OTHER: The Flames have the best record in the Western Conference, and the fourth-best record in the entire NHL, since Nov. 23. They're 16-7-2 in that span, trailing only the Penguins (19-7-1), Capitals (17-7-1) and Lightning (19-8-2).

 

Video: "We have to stay patient"

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Derek Ryan

'Doc' had a big goal in the Flames' 2-1 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the break, and - in addition to his usual ace play on the defensive side of the puck - has been a consistent source of offence over the past few weeks.  

Ryan has six points (3G, 3A) in his last nine games, and will line up on right wing alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan tonight.

Blues - Ryan O'Reilly

The defending Conn Smythe winner isn't slowing down one bit. O'Reilly has 43 points (9G, 34A) in 50 games this year, and continues to be one of the league's elite, two-way pivots.

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