The Flames will be without Rene Bourque for an unknown amount of time due to an upper-body injury he sustained last Thursday against the Blackhawks. Jamie Lundmark was recalled in his absence and immediately made an impact in his first game by notching an assist against the Kings. In 20 games with the Abbotsford Heat this season, Lundmark has five goals and 13 points.
The Flames have been excellent on the road this season. They're currently 7-1-2 and their best performances have come away from the Pengrowth Saddledome. This has got to boost their confidence as they are set to play the next seven of eight on the road.
Flames vs. Ducks, Monday, Nov. 23, 8:00 p.m. at the Honda Center, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
After years of being a highly competitive team in the West, the Ducks have fallen to the basment of the conference in the first quarter of the campaign.
The Ducks are currently sitting last in the Pacific Division and Western Conference with 17 points. They're 1-3-1 in their last five tilts and have only amassed seven points in the month of November. As they enter into the week, only Carolina and Toronto have won fewer games and within the conference only the Kings have given up more goals than the once-mighty Ducks.
One thing the Ducks are lacking which has been there in prior years is a clearly defined checking line. The sandpaper-esque players that once were staples on the Ducks roster are gone (Travis Moen, Rob Niedermayer, etc.) and it appears Anaheim is feeling those losses.
"I really don't think that's our biggest problem," Teemu Selanne told the Orange County Dispatch on Saturday. "But you need veteran players on a checking line. The one we had, all those players came from other teams and they were offensive players. Sammy (Pahlsson, now in Columbus) never was on the checking line in Sweden.
"T-Bone (Todd Marchant) doesn't care about his points or his ice time. He just wants to do anything he can to get the job done. That's the attitude you need. Young players usually want to score, to play on the top two lines."
|Jonas Hiller |
Head coach Randy Caryle appeared to be going with a "win and you're in" mentality in terms of goaltending at the start of the season but he may have a defined starter now. Jonas Hiller was in net for the Ducks 3-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks but despite the score, Hiller played a solid game so he may just earn another start. Of the two netminders, Hiller has started in 11 more games than J.S. Giguere and has a 3.02 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Giguere has a 3.38 GAA and a .893 save percentage.
The injury bug crept up on the Ducks this month and while most of their skaters have recovered, there are still questions surrounding whether or not Joffrey Lupul will be ready for action on Monday. He missed out on Saturday's game due to a lower-body injury.
"There is some soreness in my lower body and hopefully it can be taken care of for tomorrow or some time after that," Lupul told AnaheimDucks.com on Friday afternoon.
The Ducks have relied heavily on their big guns for offense this season. Corey Perry leads the Ducks in scoring with with 13 goals and 27 point. Trailing him is Ryan Getzlaf who has three goals and 25 points.
This is the first meeting of the year for the two clubs. They'll clash again on Jan. 17, 2010.
Flames vs. Coyotes, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m. at the Pengrowth Saddledome, TSN & The FAN 960
Despite the turmoil in Glendale this summer, the Phoenix Coyotes have jumped out to a surprising start this year.
Currently sitting in third place in the Pacific Division with 27 points, the Desert Dogs have a 13-9-1 record and are only a point behind the Flames. Has the financial and administrative messes brought this club together?
"Really, it's kind of united or galvanized our dressing room," captain Shane Doan told USA Today. "You have every excuse not to be successful. You have everyone saying how many distractions there are. But as a group it's really kind of brought us together."
|Ilya Bryzgalov |
Goaltending has been a major part of their success. Ilya Bryzgalov is sporting a .922 save percentage and a 2.04 GAA. He's been praised by teammates, coaches and foes all season.
"The story of this season has been the play of Craig Anderson and Ilya Bryzgalov in goal in Colorado and Phoenix. Not many people gave either of those teams a chance before this season, but look at them now. Goaltending has clearly been the key in both places," Joel Quenneville, head coach of the Chicagi Blackhawks, told NHL.com.
Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett says "Bryz" has given his club a ton of confidence this year and credits him to their accomplishments thus far.
"He's shown the rest of the league how athletic he can be the last few years. Now, all we're asking is that he be consistent and give us a chance to win -- and he's done it in each of his games," he told NHL.com. "We're a team that is offensively challenged. The identity of our team is score by committee and be hard to play against defensively. We can succeed playing that way when we get the kind of goaltending Ilya's been giving us. He's been huge."
The Coyotes don't find the back of the net often but they have gotten balanced scoring throughout the first quarter of the season. 13 players have two or more goals and, other than Doan, their top five in scoring aren't what you'd call the usual suspects: veteran Ed Jovanovski, former Flame Adrian Aucoin, 38 year-old Robert Lang and Radim Vrbata - a 7th round, 212th overall, draft pick in 1999.
Another former Flame is turning heads in the desert. Matthew Lombardi has potted four goals this season and is coming off a big victory against the Philidelphia Flyers in which he had a two-point night. Lombardi now has 12 points in his 19 games played.
This is the first of a four-game season series between the Flames and Coyotes.
Flames vs. Red Wings, Friday, Nov. 27, 5:00 p.m. at the Joe Louis Arena, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
After a slow start, the Detroit Red Wings appear to be coming back to their usual form. Currently sitting third in the Central Division with 26 points, the Wings are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and have won seven of their last ten at home as well.
A big reason for that upswing has been responsible play in their own zone. Goaltending has been shakey in the Motor City but improvement in front of their own net has given them a chance to win every night.
Offensively, Henrik Zetterberg is leading the way with nine goals and 24 points. The 29 year-old superstar was blanked in Montreal on Saturday night but still has nine points in his last five outings.
Even with contributions like Zetterberg's, the coaching staff isn't happy with the offensive production from their forwards. The top line, comprised of Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, drew criticism from head coach Mike Babcock last week.
|Todd Bertuzzi |
"That line hasn't been very good," Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. "Pav, Bert and Homer haven't been as good. They turn the puck over way too much and haven't had enough substance playing in the offensive zone."
Holmstrom has a single tally in his last eight games and Bertuzzi only has two goals in his past 13 games. Datsyuk scored his sixth of the year on Saturday when the Wings defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout.
The Wings will be without blueliner Niklas Kronwall. The defenseman was tripped by Montreal's Georges Laraque on Saturday and sprained his left MCL.
"The good news is there's no damage to the ACL," general manager Ken Holland said Sunday. "But we're looking at a minimum of four weeks and at a range of somewhere between four to eight weeks."
Kronwall, who is Flames defenseman Staffan Kronwall's brother, is third in team scoring with five goals and 13 points in 21 games played.
This is the second meeting between the Flames and Wings. On Oct. 31, Detroit defeated Calgary 3-1 in the Pengrowth Saddledome. Brad Stuart, Kirk Maltby and Holmstrom scored for the Wings while Daymond Langkow had the lone Flames goal.
Flames vs. Blue Jackets, Saturday, Nov. 28, 5:00 p.m. at the Nationwide Arena, CBC & The FAN 960
After making their first-ever playoff apperance last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets set out to prove their the real deal this season. So far, that mission has been a success.
The Jackets are in second place in the Central Division with 27 points and a 12-6-3 record. They've only lost a single game in regulation in their last ten outings and have been very successful at home with a 6-2-2 record in last ten at Nationwide Arena.
Goaltender Steve Mason appears to getting back to his Calder-trophy winning form as the season progresses. Mason had a slow start to the year but has earned his team points in four of his last five starts. His GAA is sitting at 3.44 and his save percentage is .889. He comes into the week on a shootout loss but made 45 saves against the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
Backup netminder Mathieu Garon has had a great start to his season, going 4-1-1 and sporting a .923 save percentage and a 2.46 GAA. Due this game being at the tailend of a back-to-back situation, it may be a backup goaltenders duel between Garon and Curtis McElhinney.
|Kristian Huselius |
Not surprisingly, the Blue Jackets are being led offensively by captain Rick Nash. The winger has 14 goals and 25 points in his 21 games this season. Trailing him is former Flame Kristian Huselius who has eight goals and 16 points. The crafty winger missed several games at the beginning of the month due to an injury but has returned with a bit of scoring touch. Since coming back to action on Nov. 13, he has seven points in four games.
Columbus may be without winger Derek Doresett when Calgary comes into town. Dorsett was driven head-first into the boards by Dallas Star James Neal and is suspected to have suffered a concussion on the hit.
"I'd say it's pretty low, but that's coming from me," Dorsett said. "I know Neal knew what he was doing. I know the type of player he is. I've played against him in junior hockey and in the Memorial Cup. I know what kind of person he is, and I know what his intention was," Dorsett told the Columbus Dispatch. "He can say he's sorry I was hurt. He can say he was going too fast to stop. But there was no attempt to slow down. If anything, he sped up and drove right through the hit, his elbow into the back of my head. He can say whatever he wants, but that's a really cheap hit."
Dorsett will miss the final three games of the Blue Jackets road trip and a return date will be determined this week.
This will be the third game of the season series. Calgary and Columbus split the first two tilts with the Flames outscoring the Jackets 7-5.