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At the Rink: Panthers at Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Goaltender Jonas Hiller will make his first start in more than a month when the Calgary Flames host the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; SN1, FS-F).

The Panthers will be without coach Gerard Gallant, who is attending his mother's funeral. They will be coached by assistant Mike Kelly.

Hiller served as backup while Karri Ramo made 12 consecutive starts from Dec. 15-Jan. 11.

"[Hiller] has been working very hard, and [Ramo] gave us quite a streak," said Flames coach Bob Hartley, who has started Ramo in 27 of the past 30 games. "At the same time, we've said all along that we're fortunate that we have two goalies who can make a difference for us.

"It's a matter of giving [Ramo] a break, but at the same time [Hiller] can come in and hopefully [Hiller] plays the next 10."

Hiller has not played since Dec. 12, when he made 25 saves in a 5-4 overtime win against the New York Rangers. It was the second of back-to-back wins for Hiller, with he and Ramo battling illness at the time.

"It's never easy if you want to play," said Hiller, who started 44 games last season. "I won the last two games that I played and I still didn't play, so mentally it's not easy. Knowing it's my contract year and all that stuff, it's tough to not think about those things. You still go out there, do your best in practice, and wait for your chance.

"I have enough experience. I've played in enough games to know how to get myself ready. It's not going to be a big issue, but at the same time it's nicer if you had a groove and still felt good from the last game. I feel good in practice and that's what I want to build off."

Hiller is 4-4-0 with a 3.76 goals-against average and .862 save percentage. He will face a Panthers team that has at least a point in 13 straight games. Their 12-game win streak ended in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Florida's win streak was the longest in NHL history among teams that didn't make the Stanley Cup Playoffs the previous season.

The win streak was also the longest since the Boston Bruins won 12 in a row from March 2-22, 2014.

Captain Willie Mitchell is hoping the loss will help instill some urgency into Florida's game.

"It's tough. As an older player, you try to get guys on edge but you just can't manufacture that," Mitchell said. "You've got to be in a situation that demands that. That's either trying to get into the playoffs or trying to win a game late because it's a tie game or you're down by one. That's urgency. You can't manufacture that. I think the whole streak for us was kind of good because once you get on a roll like that you want to keep it going. It's hard, mentally and physically … more the mental part.

"I think the last three games or so wasn't our best hockey. We've had some good moments within those games where we've had to stick up for each other and grow through the hockey club that way but it hasn't been our best hockey. We look to play some better hockey here on the tail end of the trip."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jonathan HuberdeauAleksander BarkovJaromir Jagr

Jussi JokinenVincent TrocheckReilly Smith

Brandon PirriNick BjugstadLogan Shaw

Corban KnightDerek MacKenzieShawn Thornton

Willie Mitchell - Alex Petrovic

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov - Steven Kampfer

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Aaron Ekblad (upper body), Dave Bolland (lower body)

Scratched: Quinton Howden


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Micheal Ferland

Sam Bennett - Mikael Backlund - Jiri Hudler

Joe Colborne - Markus Granlund - David Jones

Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - Josh Jooris

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Dougie Hamilton

Deryk Engelland - Dennis Wideman

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Injured: Lance Bouma (lower body), Michael Frolik (upper body)

Scratched: Mason Raymond, Ladislav Smid

Status report: Kelly had no update on Ekblad's injury. … Hudler, who has missed the past three games because of a lower-body injury, will play. Frolik, who has missed the past 11 games because of an upper-body injury, could play as early as Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.

Who's hot: Jagr has four goals and two assists, and Barkov has one goal and four assists, in five-game point streaks. Huberdeau has three goals and three assists in a four-game point streak. … Giordano has five assists and six points in a five-game point streak.

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