Sunday, February 20, 2011
11:45 AM Kamal Panesar No comments
After a few days of festivities the hype is over, the PR jobs are done and the players are ready. Today, at 6:00 PM EST, the puck drops for the 2011 Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
Lost in the publicly televised Habs practice, the players trying on different types of long underwear, hoods and socks, and the chicken broth at the bench to help keep them warm, is the fact there there are a hugely important two points on the line tonight.
The Habs, who have been in a free fall of late going 1-3-2 in their last six games, need the win to keep pace with the Bruins and keep a buffer on the teams behind them. More importantly, they just need a good showing and two points will go a long way towards turning around a road trip that started on a terrible note in Edmonton on Thursday.
A win will also snap a two-game losing streak by the Habs.
The outlook is decidedly more positive in Calgary where the once cellar-dwelling Flames have turned their season around, sitting in a four-way tie for fifth overall in the West with 68 points.
Calgary is actually in ninth at the moment due to their 60 games played and 30 wins to the Ducks' 32, Stars' 31 and Kings' 32. However, going 7-1-2 in their last ten games and 10-1-2 in their last 13, the Flames are a team on fire—pun fully intended.
Carey Price will get his 53rd start of the season and will be donning his new Heritage Classic mask.
For those who haven't yet seen it, take a look at these pictures because it's a bit difficult to describe and a bit hilarious to look at!
Well at least I think so.
For the Flames, expect Miikka Kiprusoff to get his 13th straight start and 52nd of the year.
Price has the better numbers out of the two, but stats don't necessarily matter in a game where the sun will be shining brightly and possibly making it more difficult for these work-horse netminders.
Special Teams and Scoring
The Flames are a much more offensive team than Montreal with their 8th overall 2.9 goals-for per game, to the Habs anemic 25th overall 2.6 per game. The Habs, however, have the edge in the goals-against department with their 8th overall 2.5 per game to the Flames 17th overall 2.8.
As such, you would expect this game to feature defense versus offense meaning the that Price will have to be sharp.
The Habs have a huge advantage in the special teams department with the ninth best power play at 19 percent, and sixth overall PK at 84.8 percent. The Flames will counter with a below average 19th overall PP at 16.8 percent and 17th overall PK at 81.4 percent.
Despite the Habs top-10 PP, they have gone only 2-for-16 in their last four games for a pitiful 12.5 percent efficiency.
Montreal is getting a bevy of players back in the lineup today with the return of Hal Gill, Michael Cammalleri and supposedly James Wizniewski. The Wiz, who took a shot in the face last game and went to the hospital with a severe facial laceration, was practicing yesterday with a full face cage, a wicked shiner and a Frankenstein-like gash on his face.
Even if the Habs only get Cammy and Gill back, it will provide a well needed boost for the team.
If we go by the lines at practice yesterday, it looks like David Desharnais will finally be getting his shot as the second line center, playing between Cammalleri and Benoit Pouliot.
Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek continues to be on the sidelines with no real word on the extent of his injury or potential length of absence from the lineup.
The Flames are a relatively healthy team but continue to be without the services of Daymond Langkow, Raitis Ivanans and Adam Pardy.
The puck drops at 6:00 PM EST.
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/
(Image taken from Dave Stubbs video on HabsInsideOut.com)