REFRAIN FROM SINGING THE BLUES
The Flames first game this week comes on Tuesday when they host the St. Louis Blues (7:00 PM MT, SN-Flames, FAN 960). The Blues are a team the Flames have struggled mightily against in recent seasons – they are 1-9-1 in their past 11 games against the Blues and have lost six straight games in St. Louis, dating back to Apr. 1, 2011. In 2014-15, the Flames dropped all three games against the Blues and were outscored 12-2 in the process.
Tuesday’s tilt is a perfect opportunity for redemption for Calgary and offers up a great challenge for Bob Hartley’s crew. The Blues will be a testy bunch, coming off a 3-2 loss to their divisional rivals, the Minnesota Wild, on Saturday -- the same opponent that handed them an early playoff exit last spring.
St. Louis is a different looking group after an off-season of change: gone is longtime offensive threat TJ Oshie, along with defencemen Barrett Jackman and Zbynek Michalek. In comes veteran forward Troy Brower and free agent pivot Kyle Brodziak.
The Blues are led by a very strong blueline which includes Kevin Shattenkirk and former Flame Jay Bouwmeester, and a crop of talented young forwards including Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Jori Lehtera.
THE GOALIE CAROUSEL
Does Joni Ortio get his spin in net this week? The Flames coaching staff have been running with a ‘win and you’re in’ system with their three goaltenders, making it likely Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes on Tuesday evening, but if the Swiss ‘tender falters in one of the Flames three games this week, Ortio may get his turn in the net.
The 24-year-old may also get a shot in the blue paint due to the scheduling of games – the Flames play their first set of back-to-backs this week, facing the Winnipeg Jets on Friday and the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
Ortio had a 1-2-0 record with a 1.62 GAA and a .946 save percentage in the pre-season. He was also rock solid during his cup of coffee with the Flames in 2014-15, collecting four straight victories to kick off his 2014-15 tenure in Calgary.
SPOIL THE PARTY
After spoiling Vancouver’s home opener on Saturday night, the Flames will look to do the same on Friday when they face off against the Winnipeg Jets (6:00 PM MT, SN-Flames, FAN 960) in their first game at the MTS Centre this season.
The Flames went 2-1-0 against the Jets last season and won one of their pair of games in Winnipeg in the 2014-15 campaign. They outscored the Jets 10-8 and were led by Mason Raymond, who had four points against Winnipeg.
The Jets opened up the 2015-16 season with two wins on their four-stop trek across the North East United States. Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler lead the team in scoring with three points apiece.
THE BATTLE OF ALBERTA
With the additions Edmonton made in the off-season including drafting Connor McDavid, many are expecting to see a revitalized Battle Of Alberta – a rivalry that has been dominated by the Flames in recent years.
We’ll get our first taste of the 2015-16 edition of the Battle of Alberta when the Flames host the Oilers on Saturday night (8:00 PM MT, CBC, FAN 960).
Edmonton’s offence has struggled out of the gate, scoring just one goal – which was deflected in by Alexander Steen – in a pair of games, but they have received strong goaltending from newcomer Cam Tablot. The 28-year-old has made 52 saves on 56 shots faced, earning him a 2.05 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
The Flames top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler showed no signs of rust to start the year, combining for nine points in two games. But Bob Hartley has been tinkering with his other combinations, making changes before and throughout the games.
On Saturday, however, he may have found a combo to stick with. Sam Bennett centered Michael Frolik and Mason Raymond throughout the 3-2 OT victory at Rogers Arena and the trio looked sharp all evening.
The line’s Corsi For total sat at 63 at the end of the night, the highest total amongst the Flames four lines, and they combined for eight scoring chances. They also had some of best Corsi differentials on Saturday night: Bennett (15), Frolik (14), and (8).
Rounding out the Flames lines in Vancouver were Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Brandon Bollig and Micheal Ferland – Matt Stajan – David Jones. Josh Jooris was a healthy scratch on Saturday.