A quiet week for the Flames with only two games played gives us a chance to discuss the current NHL All-Star format, and some ideas we have to change the format and make it more important and relevant.  We discuss the callups of David Wolf, Tyler Wotherspoon and Sven Baertschi and what we can expect from each of those players.  Dan and Matt break down 4 potential NCAA and KHL free-agent Defencemen they think the Flames should target in the off-season.

First Period

Calgary started off the game with some early control. They’ve managed to establish a solid forecheck in Minnesota’s end and generated several shots on Devan Dubnyk. It was not until the seven minute mark that Minnesota started to skate effectively. Once they did turn on the jets, they did not look back for the remainder of the period. The Wild drew first blood 8:59 into the first, capitalizing on an errant clearing pass. Mark Giordano had control of the puck and tried to clear the puck up through the middle of the ice. Unfortunately for him, it hit off of someone and bounced behind him directly onto the stick of Zach Parise, who went and all alone and slipped one past Jonas Hiller. After surrendering a somewhat easier goal, Hiller stood on his head for the remainder of the period, stymieing the Wild at every opportunity. Calgary was unable to score a goal and trailed 1-0 after one.

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It is the first alumni night of the season, as Gary Roberts will be in town for tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild. These two teams are both defying expectations that were placed on them prior to the season. In Minnesota’s case, that is not a good thing. Almost everything has gone wrong thus far and the coach, Mike Yeo, is on the hot seat. Only eight teams have surrendered more goals this season then Minnesota Wild. Four different goaltenders have seen action for the Wild, with newly acquired Devin Dubnyk taking the starters role since he came aboard. In his five starts since being acquired from Arizona, Dubnyk has a 3-1-1 record. Minnesota comfortably made the playoffs last year with 98 points. This year, they are on pace for only 84. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames are on pace to eclipse their mark by 17 points over last season.

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First Period

It was a slow start for the two teams in the opening minutes with both sides feeling each other out. The Flames generated the first good scoring chance of the game when Paul Byron fired a shot at Enroth that created a rebound and they banged away but were unable to get past the goalie. Calgary controlled the play following the Byron chance, but were unable to get the puck through bodies and sticks on net effectively. Those that did reach the Sabres goalie were easy saves. Buffalo had a great scoring opportunity just before the halfway mark. A turnover cause the Sabres to go in on a 2 on 1, which Hiller made the first save and appeared to poke the puck off of Stafford’s stick on the rebound. That was the Sabres’ first shot of the period. Less than a minute later Joe Colborne was called for hooking. Only 13 seconds into the power play Chris Stewart scored on a deflection in front of Hiller. A pair of Tyler’s got an assist on the goal, Ennis and Myers. Following the goal, Calgary received a power play of their own and responded in kind. Johnny Gaudreau made a spectacular individual effort cutting in front of Enroth and fired it home. Jiri Hudler had a good scoring chance a few minutes after the goal, deflecting a Dennis Wideman point shot that nearly handcuffed Enroth. Joe Colborne took a late high-sticking penalty, his second penalty of the period. This time the Sabres were unable to capitalize and the teams headed into the intermission tied at one.

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Now that the All-Star game has concluded, the Calgary Flames will open the second half of the 2014-2015 season with a six game homestand. Their opponent this evening will be the last place Buffalo Sabres. Just when things could not seem to get worse, the Sabres were forced to suspend one of the few bright spots on the team in Nikita Zadorov. He did not report back to the Sabres in time following the All-Star break and was suspended. In their last 16 contests, Buffalo has amassed a record of 1-14-1 and are currently in a tailspin losing their last 11 games in regulation. Since the beginning of December, the Flames are 10-11-1 and are seeking to push that record to .500. Tonight will be the Flames best opportunity to get their special teams back in order. After struggling mightily in both categories, the Flames face the worst power play and penalty kill in the entire NHL. Buffalo also sports the worst scoring rate for any team in the league. This game could become a huge confidence boost for the Flames as they head into the most difficult month of the season.

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First Period

Sean Monahan had an early chance on the first shift for the Flames, evading the Ducks defenders and firing it on the net. Fredrik Andersen was not in position, so Corey Perry had to make the save. Calgary and Anaheim treated chances around the four minute mark. Mikael Backlund had a breakaway that was stopped by Andersen, then Getzlaf had a good opportunity on Ortio that went just wide. Anaheim opened the scoring on a defensive breakdown by the Flames allowing Kyle Palmieri to be left wide open to receive a pass from behind the net from Matt Beleskey. Johnny Gaudreau had a rough start to the game with a pair of turnovers. The first one led to the Ducks goal, and the second allowed René Bourque to have the great scoring chance that Ortio barely got a glove on. Calgary went to the power play after Andrew Cogliano broke Matt Stajan’s stick. Ryan Getzlaf had the best opportunity to score on the power play, after he was sprung for a shorthanded breakaway. Calgary received another power play, but once again were unable to do anything with it. Anaheim extended their lead to two on a redirection in front of Joni Ortio by Pat Maroon. A few minutes later, the Ducks scored again on a redirection. Ben Lovejoy fired a wrist shot on net that hit Kris Russell’s glove before going over Ortio’s shoulder. The shellshocked Flames went to the intermission down 3-0.

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One year away from the bench clearing brawl against the Canucks last year, and the Flames are flying high.  Joni Ortio made his season debut and kept winning to lead the team to four important wins on the road over the last week, and we look ahead to the Anaheim game this week, and if the Flames can break “The Honda Center Curse”. All this and more news from a busy week of Flames hockey.

The only thing standing in the way of a perfect road trip for the Calgary Flames is the Honda Centre curse. It has been 11 years since the Flames found a way to win in Anaheim, one of the longest droughts of any team in any building in the NHL. Joni Ortio will be the next Flames goalie to attempt to solve the enigma that is Anaheim, earning his fifth consecutive start. Ortio’s four games this season have been the most composed performances by a Flames’ netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff. With the Flames’ mantra of always earned never given, it is not surprising that Ortio will play once again after his game against the Kings. The Finnish netminder only allowed one goal on 34 shots against the Kings, and the goal he allowed appeared to be both screened and deflected on its way in. His calm demeanour has given the Flames a confidence boost throughout the road trip.

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Talk about shuffling the deck a bit. Tyler Wotherspoon will replace Ladislav Smid on the defence after Smid was hit in the upper body late in the third period courtesy of Jordan Nolan. It is possible that Smid suffered his second concussion in just over a month. If that’s the case, it is possible that Smid may not return for a long time. After some excellent play by Markus Granlund in the last two games, Drew Shore was the odd man out upon the return of Karri Ramo. The Flames will run with three goalies for the foreseeable future.

Wotherspoon has been Adirondack’s best defenseman this season, so it will be interesting to see how his game translates to the NHL.