Who: Calgary Flames
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Know thine enemy: The Flames have been the Road Warriors early on this year, going 3-1-0 away from Alberta and riding a two-game winning streak despite allowing nearly 37 shots per game. That includes being outshot 50-18 on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, yet still pulling out the 2-1 overtime win thanks to a 49-save effort from Jonas Hiller.
Offensively, the back end is leading the charge. T.J. Brodie is tied for the team-lead in goals (2) and points (5) while fellow defenseman Mark Giordano is second on the team in assists (4) and tied with Brodie and Joe Colborne for the team-lead in points. Jiri Hudler is quietly having a solid start with a 2-2-4 line while Mason Raymond leads the team in goals with three through the first four games.
In net, Kari Ramo has stolen the thunder of new starter Jonas Hiller. It’s not that Hiller hasn’t been solid – 2.62 GAA, but .934 save percentage in three starts – but Ramo has been better and has been getting the wins. He’s got a sparling 1.92 GAA to go with his .934 save percentage and could see the start tonight in Columbus.
The Flames aren’t flashy and their winning ways aren’t likely to continue, but they’re feisty and they will fight until the very end. The Jackets have to match the effort and intensity if they don’t want to get caught by surprise.
About the Blue Jackets: The Jackets, meanwhile, showed good resiliency on Tuesday by overcoming an early 2-0 deficit, but just couldn’t manage the Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin power duo. Dropping that game 4-2 isn’t a huge issue as the team started off with a pair of wins, but games like tonight will be important for the Blue Jackets for the next month or so. With everyone on the shelf slowly getting healthy, the Jackets will need to stay afloat. If they start to fall behind in the win column, it might be too much to expect them to crawl out of a hole. Winning games like this, against inferior opponents, will become paramount.
Speaking of the injury front, the team could get a shot of good news as Ryan Murray could be cleared to play depending on how his doctor’s visit goes. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. It seems that forward Marko Dano didn’t skate on Thursday and is considered day-to-day.
Ryan Johansen, for all the criticism he received about his conditioning following his holdout, has been everything Columbus hoped he’d be. He trails only Cam Atkinson for the team lead in goals and leads the team with five points through three games.
In goal, it seems likely it’ll be backup Curtis McElhinney. Or it could be his turn tomorrow against Ottawa. Either way, Sergei Bobrovsky can use a break after a solid start to the season (2-1-0, 2.01 GAA, .927%).
The part where I predict things: Despite the slow start and eventual loss to the Stars on Tuesday, the Jackets are bringing good energy and are clearly in a system that allows them to succeed in the face of such adversity. They’re getting big early performances from Johansen, Atkinson and Nick Foligno, helping them offset the injury woes they’re facing.
On Friday night, they should come out energized against a Calgary team they should, on paper, beat. So long as they don’t get in a hole early, expect the physical Jackets to wear down the Flames and close it out late.
Score: 3-1 Jackets
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