You can't help but look at the Calgary Flames and feel a bit of Deja vu.
1) A GM who has surrounded himself with family members and friends in the organization, and whittled away the prospect pipeline while trying to jumpstart his team again and again with puzzling free agent pickups and deadline deals.
2) A team that looks quite talented on paper, but never seems to get the pieces in the right order, particularly when some of the heralded free agency acquisitions fail to produce meaningfully in the lineup.
3) A team that is good enough to avoid a lottery pick, but bad enough to keep missing the playoffs, often with a heartbreaking results for their fans.
There but for the grace of God (and John H, McConnell), go we...though this year, at least, the Sutter Brothers Comedy Hour & Variety Show may have at least finally produced a team bad enough to earn a shot at the lottery and rejuvenating their prospect pool a bit...assuming Darryl Sutter doesn't trade their first rounder again.
Still, even after a dramatic 3-1 victory over the Rangers on Saturday, 2 points is 2 points, and looking past the Flames earlier this season left the Jackets with some serious burns.
|Game Time: 9:00pm EST
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|Radio: 97.1 WFAN
|Blue Jackets vs Flames coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Matchsticks & Gasoline
Going into Calgary to take on the 15th ranked Flames, the Jackets find themselves within a point of returning to a playoff position, and 8 points away from sliding to the bottom. It's a dangerous ascent, and one the team must continue to navigate with a strong forecheck and smart play, rather than allowing the Flames to dictate the tempo.
Kristian Huselius did make the flight to Calgary with the team, and is expected to play on this Western Canada road trip, but he is listed as Questionable for the match against his former team. Juice took full-contact practice from Thursday on, and though he reported aggravating the sprain slightly on Saturday, he returned to practice Sunday without complaint. While it's doubtful that his return would totally fix the team's power play woes, it would be an excellent shot in the arm.
Derek MacKenzie is also on the trip, after tweaking his groin in the win over the Rangers, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets tonight off and Kyle Wilson replaces him on the fourth line.
On the Calgary side of things, coming off a shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Head Coach Brent Sutter has been trying to motivate his guys through healthy scratches and questioning their work ethic. Let us know how that works out for you.
For their part, the media in Calgary have been consistently calling for the head of Calgary GM Darryl Sutter and predicting the firing of his brother - even going so far as suggesting that had the team lost outright in Anaheim on Saturday,they might have fired Brent to set up a "soft" welcome with the game against the Jackets.
I don't like hearing Columbus called a soft game. I bet coach Arniel wouldn't, either.
I dearly hope that a copy of the Calgary Herald found its' way to his hotel room this morning.
Keys To The Game:
- Forecheck - When the team came out and established their forecheck against the Rangers on Saturday, they were fantastic. Part of why Calgary was able to smack the Jackets in October was their ability to jump on top and control the puck, forcing the Jackets to try and take it away from them. Time to turn the tables.
- Get In Front - The Flames aren't as schizo about scoring first as some teams (including, I must admit, the Jackets), but if they go into a hole early, they struggle to find their way back - 1-6-1 when trailing after one period, and 2-12-2 when trailing after two.
- Unleash Hell - The Flames are 4-7-1 when outshot by an opponent. The Jackets have been able to put up some pretty impressive shooting numbers when they get their system going. If they can both outshoot and outwork the Flames? That should lead to some good things.
- Shave Off The Top - The Flames are getting their scoring from Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, and Rene Bourque. Brendan Morrison, Matt Stajan, and even (surprisingly) Olli Jokinen are contributing, but those are the big three guys. If our checking lines can bottle them up the way they shut down Gaborik, Dubinsky, and Anisimov, it goes a long way to tilting the ice in Columbus' favor.
- Smoke The Kipper - Kiprusoff can be a goalie who can backstop your team to the Stanley Cup finals. But he can also be the goalie who gets lit up so badly in the Olympics that he walks to the bench while the opposing team flies in to score. Get to him early and he'll take himself out of the game.
Blue Jackets Information:
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Tom Sestito|
|Ethan Moreau||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Andrew Murray||Kyle Wilson||Chris Clark|
|Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Mike Commodore||Kris Russell|
|Rene Borque||Olli Jokinen||Jarome Iginla|
|Alex Tanguay||Brendan Morrison||Alex Kotalik|
|Curtis Glencross||Mikael Backlund||Niklas Hagman|
|Tom Kostopoulos||David Moss||Tim Jackman|
|Robin Regehr||Jay Bouwmeester|
|Mark Giordano||Cory Sarich|
|Anton Babchuk||Adam Pardy|
Tidbit: If all else fails, Olli Jokinen can be distracted by use of the magic waffle.