Update (12:33 PM): George Malik scouts the Flames here. - Matt
Tonight is the fourth and final meeting between the Detroit Red Wings and the Calgary Flames this season. The Detroit leads the series 3-0 with wins October 10th (4-2), November 1st (4-1) and November 27th (5-3).
The puck drops at 9:00 ET.
The 31-22-8 Flames are 5-5-0 in February thus far. They began the month with a pair of losses: 2-1 to Dallas on the 2nd and 5-0 to the Oilers on the 4th. The rebounded on the 5th with a 4-3 SO win over Phoenix, but lost again two nights later, 3-1 to Chicago. The followed the loss to the Hawks with wins over Edmonton on the 9th (4-1) and San Jose on the 12th (4-3 OT). A pair of losses cut any hope for a win streak short, as they dropped games in LA (6-3) and Anaheim (4-2) on the 15th and 17th. They are 2-0 since then, however, having pulled out wins in Phoenix (4-1) and Dallas (3-2) on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Calgary's 70 points are good for third in the Northwest Division and eighth in the Western Conference. This is a potential first round matchup.
Jarome Iginla leads the Flames in goals with 38 and points with 74. Daymond Langkow (24), Kristian Huselius (21), Owen Nolan (15), Alex Tanguay (13), Dion Phaneuf (13), and Matthew Lombardi (10) have all cracked the double-digit goal barrier.
David Moss (ankle) is listed as questionable.
It looks like we can expect to see Miikka Kiprusoff in net tonight, though it's not outside the realm of possibility that former Red Wing Curtis Joseph could get the nod. Kiprusoff has posted a 2.79 GAA and .899 save-percentage this season. Joseph has appeared in just three games (one in relief) and has a 3.00 GAA and .899 save-percentage. If Joseph plays, he will look to pass Detroit great Terry Sawchuk in wins. He moved into a tie fourth-place tie with Sawchuck with his 447th career win on Wednesday.
The Wings improved to 4-5-1 in February with an emotional 4-0 win over Colorado on Monday. The win snapped a six-game losing streak that included losses to LA, Toronto, Anaheim, Nashville, Columbus, and Dallas. Tonight is the third of a five-game stretch of road games. The team earned a reprieve from the stress of travel by returning to Detroit following their win over Colorado, but they will travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks tomorrow night and to Edmonton to face the Oilers on Tuesday.
Despite their recent skid, the Wings retain their lead over the rest of the League, though it has dwindled to just ten points.
Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in goals with 35 and points with 73. Pavel Datsyuk is not far behind with 72 points. Datsyuk (21), Tomas Holmstrom (20), Valtteri Filppula (16), Johan Franzen (12), and Jiri Hudler (11) are the active Wings who have cracked the 10-goal mark.
The team will be without Nick Lidstrom (sprained knee) for a full game for the first time this season. He is scheduled to sit out the next three weeks or so after spraining his knee as the result of a hit by Ian Laperriere Monday night. Big Jonathan Ericsson was called up from Grand Rapids to fill in as a result of Nick's injury. He will make his NHL debut tonight.
Brian Rafalski (groin) will sit out his fourth straight. Kyle Quincey will fill in for the second time this season.
Niklas Kronwall (clavicle) will miss his 11th in a row. Derek Meech will play his 11th consecutive game as a result.
Dan Cleary (broken jaw) is out for the fifth straight game.
Expect Aaron Downey to remain in the lineup tonight.
Projected pairings (based on Khan):
Those will probably be mixed up throughout the game.
Chris Osgood will get the start tonight.
For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown. OklahomaWingNut's GDT is here.
Tonight's game is new territory for the Wings, who don't have to play without Nick Lidstrom very often. They will have a very young defense going up against a speedy and physical Calgary team that carries the threat of Jarome Iginla. Chris Osgood is going to be on top of his game and the Wings' offense is going to need to click at a high level. I have confidence in the youngsters and I'm looking forward to seeing Ericsson play in the NHL, but this will be an interesting test.