Into the Shark Tank
Last season, in mid-November, the Calgary Flames visited the San Jose Sharks and were pasted 6-1. The team cancelled plans to stay in the San Francisco Bay area for some rest and relaxation and returned home to Calgary for several days of practice and review of systems.
Many point to that weekend as a turning point in the Flames season, something that got them heading in the right direction once and for all.
The Flames are once again heading to San Jose for their first meeting with the Sharks on Saturday (8 pm CBC and The Fan 960). But this year it is very different. The Flames are already on track as they travel to the Shark Tank and have proven to be one tough opponent on the road.
In the midst of a six-game road trip -- the stop in San Jose is Game 5 -- the Flames are -1- after a in Phoenix on Thursday.
The game against the Sharks, the No. 1 team in the National Hockey League, is a showdown of two Western Conference powers with no shortage of storylines.
Jarome Iginla was named the NHL's first star of the month in November after collecting 20 points. Joe Thornton in San Jose was named second star of the month after he also collected 20 points. Both teams have plenty of depth and boast two lines that can score.
Workhorse goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff are neck and neck in the most wins category this season.
Both teams have the ability to score plenty. Both the Flames and the Sharks are strong in the special teams department.
The Flames are ranked second in the league on the road (coincidentally, San Jose is ranked No. 1) while the Sharks are an impressive 8-1-2 at home.
And the Flames, following a 2-1 loss in Phoenix on Thursday, will be chomping at the bit for a chance at redemption. "It's going to be a big game for us to bounce back," said forward Curtis Glencross on The Fan 960 following the Phoenix game. "They play hard and they play well at home. We have to limit our mistakes and play our game."
Head coach Brent Sutter, in his post-game media scrum in Phoenix, said the Flames will have to be much better in San Jose.
"When you play the top team in the league it gives you a chance to gauge where your team is. We will be ready for them. Obviously we will have to be better than we were (in Phoenix)."
Kiprusoff's streak ends
Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who has been a wall of late, had his shutout streak come to an end Thursday in Phoenix at 161:13 when Petr Prucha beat him in the second period of Thursday's game.
Even so, Kiprusoff was the Flames best player in Phoenix.
"We wanted the two points and we didn't get them. We gave up too many scoring chances. If it wasn't for Kipper it could have been more. You can't be happy with losing. We have to get back into the saddle," said forward Freddie Sjostrom.
Kiprusoff faced 31 shots, including 15 in the first period and made some big saves at key points in the game, including a terrific stop on a rebound in close on David Winnick that had everybody in the building looking to the back of net (except for Kiprusoff, of course).
Sjostrom, by the way, dubbed the ice in Phoenix as very poor. "It's not good ice out there," he told Flames Pay-Per-View. "It's probably the worst ice in the NHL."
After missing six games with an injury, Rene Bourque returned to the Flames line-up Thursday in Phoenix and was placed on the top line with Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen.
Head coach Brent Sutter said Bourque performed as expected considering it was his first game back and he was with new linemates.
"You could tell he hadn't played for a while," said Sutter. "I was expecting that. It is going to take some time. He will get better."
The coach indicated Bourque, who had a hot start to the season on a line with Daymond Langkow and Nigel Dawes, will continue to play on the top line. "We'll give it a shot and see how it goes."
Part of the reason is that David Moss has slid onto the second line with Langkow and Dawes and been very productive -- he scored the Flames lone goal on Thursday and now has points in five straight games.
For his part Bourque played a little more than 17 minutes and led the Flames in shots with four in his return.
Did you know...
In two games this season the Flames and Coyotes have each won 2-1. Last season the road team won all four games in the Coyotes-Flames season series. This year it is developing into the opposite as both teams have won on home ice...Flames forward Curtis Glencross was recently engaged and will be getting married this coming off-season...Seveeral Flames, including Olli Jokinen (three games), Jarome Iginla (three games) and Nigel Dawes (four games) had point streaks end in Phoenix...Calgary has only losttwo road games in regulation this season going 10-2-3 for 23 points.
Mike Board is Content Director a calgaryflames.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org