Gameday Preview: Cats vs. Flames

0-2-0

VS.

1-1-0

The reunion tour continues and will end tonight when the Florida Panthers take on a couple more old friends in Jay Blow, Niklas Hagman, and Olli Jokinen at the Saddledome in Calgary Alberta against the Flames.  One of the greatest parts of the country to see.  The mountains, the lakes, the bears, and of course The Red Mile.  If you’ve never been, you need to go.  Most of the area in and around Calgary is absolutely breathtaking.  However, if you’re shy and bashful and not looking for media attention as a hockey player, this isn’t the place for you.  As our FanSided counterpart Flame For Thought will tell you.

The Flames started out against the young upstart Edmonton Oilers and were completely outplayed as well as shutout 4-0.  They rebounded three nights later and beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1  to stand at an even 1-1.  Calgary is coming off a disappointing season where they just missed the playoffs and were the talk of the NHL with a couple of roster additions this offseason.  Former Panther captain Olli Jokinen was reacquired as a free agent at a reduced price of $3 million per season, much to the outrage of the fanbase.  Olli just didn’t seem to fit in after he was acquired by Sutter before the 2009 playoffs.  He started off hot and then kind of  bottomed out before the season ended and was not himself during the playoffs either.  It was thought that Olli being reunited with then Flames head coach Mike Keenan might have rejuvenated him.  It didn’t work.  For either of them, as Keenan was dismissed prior to the 2009-2010 season. General manager Darryl Sutter feels that this time things will be different.

Also coming back to Calgary is forward Alex Tanguay who completely regressed last season in Tampa scoring only 10 goals.  Once again Darryl Sutter is mortgaging his job as well as his brother Brent’s with these two players. Tanguay enjoyed some success in Calgary, but pouted when he was asked to play a more defensive role when Keenan took over.

Funny how this trip includes two of the most overrated and overpayed players in the NHL that used to be Florida Panthers.  Booby Lose in Vancouver, and tonight, the most overrated d-man Jay Bouwmeester.  After consecutive seasons of 15 goals with the Panthers, but no trips to the playoffs, Jay finally got his wish.  A trade to a team in Canada where he felt he had a chance to go to the playoffs.  Jay Blow also was signed to an inflated five year contract that averages over $ 6 million per season.  In his first year,  Jay potted three goals, was even more tentative than he was in Florida, and was a minus four for those of you who like that stat.  The heat is on Jay to rebound this season.  Some blame his poor season on learning a new conference,  and playing for a new coach who had a leash on him.  Sorry, I’m not buying it.  Jay isn’t as good as everyone thinks he is.

The Panthers need to somehow get themselves two points tonight otherwise this trip will be a huge downer.  After two fairly solid efforts in which they have come up empty handed, the Panthers already are faced with a game that must be played with desperation.  Yikes, game three and we already need to resort to that?  Yes, boys and girls.  Desperate.  Style points aren’t given out for solid effort.  So after three goals in two games,  head coach Peter DeBoer has shuffled the lines.  This is what we could see:

Chris Higgins-Little Stevie-Michael Frolik

David Booth-Shawn Matthias-Rusty Backhander

Cory Still-Man-Marty Reasoner-Radek Dvorak

Kendall McArdle-Mike Santorelli-Steve Bernier

Rhino and Darcy Hordichuk will be the health scratches.  Rhino has yet to appear in a game.  Surely not sitting too well with him, but after this game, my guess is whichever forward has had the worst trip gets a trip to the press box for Saturday night’s opener.  Just a hunch.

The power play needs to improve as they are 0-8 so far.  Traffic in front of the net.  Let’s see some of that tonight.  Also, I hope that the team worked on shooting accuracy during practice.  There must have been about 146 shots that completely missed the net in the first two games.

The series between the teams has the Flames with a 11-7-3 lead.  If Florida loses this would be the second 0-3 start to a season that they’ve had since 2007-2008.  The worst game mentally on a road trip is usually the last one.  Looking forward to going home, and trying to get the bad taste of two losses out of their minds, this game will be decided sometime during the first half of the contest.  If Calgary is leading or tied at that point, look for a Panther loss.  Fatigue, and the beach will be creeping into their minds.

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Tags: Calgary Flames Darryl Sutter Florida Panthers Jay Blow Olli Jokinene