On a busy 9-game schedule in the NHL, no game could be more important than tonight’s match-up between the Flames and Leafs. Both teams are battling for the last playoff positions in their respective conferences, as the Leafs currently sit 8th in the East while the Flames are trying to gain ground on the 8th place Phoenix Coyotes, sitting 3 points back. Tonight will be the second and final meeting between the clubs as the Leafs took the first game back on October 15th at the Air Canada Centre, 3-2.
We celebrate a game today that means so much too so many Canadians and we are united by the beautiful game we call hockey for Hockey Day in Canada. The Canucks come into the dome tonight red hot, riding a 3 game winning streak while the Flames look to continue to push for that final playoff spot after losing Thursday night in Phoenix, 2-1 in OT. This is the fourth of six meetings between these Northwest division rivals, as the Canucks won the first two meetings with the combined score of 10-2 while the Flames took the last meeting 3-1 in Vancouver.
It should be a playoff type atmosphere in Phoenix tonight as the Flames head into the Desert to play the Coyotes. This is the first of four meetings between the clubs this season, with all of them coming in the next five weeks. The Flames come into Phoenix to play the back-end of a back-to-back after defeating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 last night in the Shark tank. The Coyotes on the other hand come in tonight red hot, defeating the Dallas Stars on Tuesday 4-1, for their 3rd win in a row. The two teams are neck and neck in the playoff race as the Coyotes sit 9th with 58 points and the Flames now sit in 10th with 57 points after their victory last night. Depending on how Minnesota does against Vancouver tonight, the winner of this game could find themselves in the final playoff spot for the time being.
The Flames have had a tough time with the Sharks this season which isn’t saying they haven’t played well or been dominated. Tonight will be the third of four games between the clubs as the Sharks have taken the first two meetings, both by 1 goal (Jan 17 @SJ 2-1 OT, Jan 24 @CGY 1-0). The tough time, just like the past month and a half, for the Flames against the Sharks has been scoring goals. Miikka Kiprusoff has kept the Flames in probably every game he has started this season and if the Flames don’t start helping him out offensively, the Flames will have a tough time jumping above the four teams ahead of them and into 8th spot.
The Boston Bruins placed 23-year old center man Zach Hamill on waivers today. Hamill was drafted 9th overall by the Bruins in 2007 and can be described as a creative play-making center with great vision. The Flames lack of young depth has been well documented and taking a chance on Hamill is a move I think the Flames shouldn't pass up.
Each and every game continues to get more and more important for the Flames as they head into Anaheim to face the Ducks tonight. This is the second of four meetings between the clubs, with the Flames winning the first game 1-0 in overtime. It’s easy to say tonight is a must win for the club but tonight is a MUST WIN. The Ducks have been playing much better hockey of late but any team that is lower in the standings, the Flames have to beat in order to give them any sort of chance erasing the 4 point gap between them and 8th place. Saying that tonight’s task won’t be easy as the Flames haven’t won in Anaheim in nearly 8 years. They have lost 13 straight games at the Honda Center with their last victory coming on January 19, 2004.
The Flames enter tonight’s game against the Blackhawks much like they did against the Red Wings. For the second straight game they host a team that will come into the Dome coming off an embarrassing loss. That is the case for the Blackhawks who surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose 8-4 to Sam Gagner and the Edmonton Oilers last night. The Flames will have to take advantage of the Hawks playing back-to-back games. This is the 4th and final meeting between the teams with Chicago leading the series 2-1. Both teams victories have come on home ice, so if that trend continues, the Flames are in good shape heading into tonight’s match-up.