November 6, 2011
5 Flames subplots this week
By Steve MacFarlane, QMI Agency
Still showing their ugly inconsistency on the road, the Flames return home briefly before hopping back on the charter.
But if they keep up their hot-and-cold performances from game to game, the landscape they return to could be much different. As could the faces. Three big Western Conference games await the Flames this week.
1. Swap meet
With the Flames struggling mightily to start the season — ahead of only the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets in the Western Conference standings heading into Sunday night’s action — there is plenty of talk of impending change.
Flames GM Jay Feaster has said he’s exploring every avenue.
That could mean a trade, be it minor or of the blockbuster variety, the addition of recruits from the farm club in Abbotsford (which would mean the need for dumping some bodies into the AHL affiliate in return) or maybe even a coaching change.
Anything is possible when patience runs thin, and Feaster isn’t trying to hid his dissatisfaction. You have to think the ownership group is equally frustrated with the team.
Even though plenty of contracts will come off the books this season, the franchise is not guaranteed to wait until then to make major changes. They have hopes of salvaging this season.
2. Wild things
The Minnesota Wild put their four-game winning streak on the line in Calgary Tuesday, and it includes a pair of wins against the Detroit Red Wings and a 5-1 dismantling of the Vancouver Canucks.
You read that right. The Minnesota Wild are hot, second only to the Edmonton Oilers in the Northwest Division standings.
Despite that score against the Canucks, however, it isn’t a more offensive and exciting Wild team. They’re dominating with defence.
Allowing just 1.92 goals per game, the Wild are early candidates for the Jennings Trophy. Both Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom are playing well between the pipes.
Backstrom will get the start in Calgary.
He’s won his last four outings against the Flames with a 0.63 goals-against average and .979 save percentage.
3. Moss gathers Moss
The big Flames winger sure has bad luck when it comes to injuries.
With any luck, he won’t be out long with this one.
Moss took a shot in the foot during the 2-1 loss Friday night to the Buffalo Sabres and although he participated briefly in Sunday’s morning skate in Denver, he was ruled out of the game because of the soreness.
Moss has a goal and four points in a dozen games this season, but has struggled to stay healthy over his career.
Since posting his first (and only) 20-goal NHL season in 2008-09, he hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup for a full campaign.
Moss dressed for 64 games in 2009-10, netting a disappointing eight goals and 17 points thanks to recurring shoulder problems.
He looked solid while healthy last season, coming back from a shoulder injury suffered in the pre-season and contributing 17 points and 30 points in 58 games before a high-ankle sprain put an end to his year.
4. Hawk attack
While the Flames struggle to find their offensive game, the Chicago Blackhawks have had no such problem.
The Hawks had been pumping in 3.23 goals per game to sit third in the league prior to Sunday night’s NHL action.
It probably helps that they blast an average of more than 33 shots on the opposition every 60 minutes.
Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are all playing around a point-per-game pace and Jonathan Toews isn’t far behind.
Against the Flames, those numbers always seem inflated. While winning 10 of their last 12 meetings, the Blackhawks have put up four or more goals eight times. Ouch.
5. You again ...
The Flames won’t have to wait long for a rematch in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.
They close out their back-to-back road trip on the weekend with their second game in the Mile High city in less than a week with an 8 p.m. Hockey Night in Canada clash Saturday night.