There are two reasons for the Blackhawks to kick it into gear tonight against the Calgary Flames. First, getting shut out by Vancouver two nights ago on home ice. Second, the embarrassing loss the Hawks suffered at the hands of the Flames two weeks ago by the score of 7 – 2. That absolutely must be avenged tonight.
The Flames come in sitting second-to-last in the Conference with an 11-13-2 record. It should be noted, mind you, that the Flames 24 points would be two points shy of a playoff spot were they in the Eastern Conference — that’s how competitive the West is this season. Calgary has lost 8 of their last 12, including a 7 – 2 shellacking of their own at the hands of Vancouver.
The Flames have injuries to a number of their role-players, including Raitis Ivanans, Ales Kotalik, Ryan Stone and Adam Pardy. Those players have accounted for a grand total of zero points this season, so no big loss. Scoring is led by the names you would expect: Alex Tanguay, Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque, Matt Stajan and Brendan Morrison; Mark Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester lead the defensive corp in scoring with 3 goals each. Expect Mikka Kiprusoff to get the start, bringing with him a .908 save percentage and uninspiring 2.82 GAA.
The Blackhawks, as I mentioned, are coming off a lackluster performance against Vancouver on Friday. News out of the Hawks’ camp on Sunday was that Corey Crawford was going to get the start against the Flames. This, to me, is a little surprising. Crawford is on a winning streak, having won his last five starts, which in part justifies him getting the start against the Flames. But Marty Turco is our starter, and played well enough against Vancouver: this decision by Coach Joel Quenneville has the potential to open the “goalie controversy” door again — something I said recently was a horrible thing to do.
Marian Hossa and Fernando Pisani are both still out of the lineup, so expect very few adjustments to the lineup for the Blackhawks. If we can keep the same shot differential as we had against Vancouver, and Crawford is on fire again, we may just put this one in the ‘win’ column.
6:00pm puck drop tonight at the United Center. TV is WGN for Chicagoland viewers, NHL Network for the rest of the U.S. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can find the game on channel 205.