I awoke today like a kid on Christmas morning, eager to find out if Rene Bourque would be suiting up for the Flames tonight against the Desert Dogs, and to my utter delight I found out that he will be. Not only will good ol' #17 return to the lineup this evening, but he will be playing on the first line, fulfilling the dreams of Flames fans since the 2009-10 season began two months ago. The second line of Dawes-Langkow-Moss has found undeniable chemistry in Bourque's six-game absence, particularly Moss and Dawes, who has goals in each of his last four games, and I see no reason to break them up at this point in time.
Lundmark has been sent down to Abbotsford with the return of Rene, and has reinforced his reputation as a reliable farmhand with three points in six games with the big club and a shootout winner in Columbus. We thank you for your services, Jamie, but I think we are all terribly excited to see Bourque back in action this soon. While it will be tough for Bourque to regain his team scoring lead after Jarome "Star of the Month" Iginla took over with a too-hot-to-handle November, I expect him to pick up where he left off, and hopefully he will be rewarded with a new contract sooner rather than later.
The Flames are in Phoenix today for their second meeting of the season with the 'Yotes. Apparently Jim Vandermeer is some kind of clutch offensive performer now. Who knew? Cory Sarich remains at home in Calgary with a lower-body injury, likely something to do with the foot injury that was troubling him earlier this season, and the fact that the Flames have been successful without him thus far further fuels speculation that he could be part of a deal for a top-six forward. With Sarich out, Giordano has been promoted to the second pairing with Jay Bouwmeester, and seems to be a perfect fit. Both are agile and handle the puck well, with Gio, who recorded twenty-four hits in November, holding the physical edge over Bo, who blocked twenty-one shots in the aforementioned month. Team Awesome!
Phoenix has won two straight games and is 8-5-0 at home, while the Flames have won four straight and tied a franchise record for points in ten straight road games with their 5-0 man-handling of the Nashville Predators on Monday night, good for a record of 10-1-3 away from the 'Dome. This is utterly mind-boggling to me, considering how notoriously crappy the Flames have been on the road in recent seasons, and I'm wondering if this is simply a result of the coaching change or if something has really changed in the team's overall psyche.
The Flames' powerplay has shown signs of life in recent games, moving up to a respectable ninth in the league, while the penalty kill continues to operate at a rate of 87.3% on the road, having allowed only seven powerplay goals in fourteen road games. All predictions I've read for this game have the Flames winning either 3-1 or 4-1, but I don't think it'll be that easy, despite their record of dominance in Glendale. Given the play of Kiprusoff (2.27 GAA, .925 SV%) and Bryzgalov (2.12 GAA, .919 SV%) , I expect a close game which may even go into extra time.
In other news, Jiri Tlusty was traded by the Leafs today to the Hurricanes in exchange for prospect Phillipe Paradis. So long, Jiri. Your antics and subsequent embarrassing photos provided me with cheap laughs and endless minutes of entertainment. Enjoy life in the AHL. Then again, the 'Canes offensive depth is so miserable that you might just get a shot.
Game time is 7:30 PM on Flames PPV