GameDay: Coyotes at Flames — 5 storylines

SUNDAY

Calgary Flames (29-13-4) vs. Arizona Coyotes (19-21-3*)

7:30 p.m. MT, Scotiabank Saddledome, Sportsnet One/Sportsnet 960 The Fan

*Prior to Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers

THE BIG MATCHUP

Flames G Mike Smith vs. Coyotes C Jordan Weal

The Flames are starting netminder Mike Smith and giving David Rittich a rest which is setting up to be a perfect game as any for the 36-year-old to make a statement. Playing against his former team on Nov. 25 in the desert, Smith allowed one goal on 29 shots — a goal which Travis Hamonic wore on his shoulders, considering as he coughed up the puck right to Clayton Keller who made no mistake. Meanwhile Jordan Weal just joined the team on Friday in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers and will continue to adjust.

FIVE STORYLINES FOR THE GAME

FLAMES ARE CRUISING

Heading into Saturday’s NHL action, the Flames sat second in the NHL and were eight points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (34-8-2) … they also had the NHL’s second-longest winning streak (four games) behind San Jose’s five straight wins (prior to Saturday’s game versus Ottawa) … That being said, Flames head coach Bill Peters expressed his concern with the details of their team game following Friday’s 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers. “The only thing we didn’t like was the first 20 minutes,” Peters said. “After that, we were way closer to how we wanted to play. It’s going in the right direction.”

MEET THE NEW GUY

The Coyotes acquired C Jordan Weal from the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday in a trade for D Jacob Graves and a 2019 sixth round draft choice. The 26-year-old native of North Vancouver, B.C., joined the team in Edmonton in time for Saturday’s game. His presence was expected to bolster their presence in the face-off dot, having won 59.7 per cent of his face-offs this season (prior to Saturday).

LAST TIME THESE TEAMS MET…

It got ugly. Quickly. The Flames scored three short-handed goals and one powerplay marker in a 6-1 win at Gila River Arena on Nov. 25 … D Noah Hanifin collected his first two goals as a member of the Calgary Flames … C Mark Jankowski scored twice (one shortie) while C Sean Monahan and D TJ Brodie added singles … These teams clash twice more before the season is over — once at Calgary on Feb. 18 and at Arizona on March 7.

ABOUT THE COYOTES

The Coyotes are the best penalty killing team in the NHL having only given up 15 powerplay goals this season (prior to Saturday’s action) … G Darcy Kuemper made 33 saves in a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday and was expected to start against the Oilers on Saturday, his third consecutive start … G Adin Hill, who played 19 games with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks in 2013-14, could start against the Flames.

THIS N’ THAT

RW Elias Lindholm and G David Rittich missed Saturday’s skate at Winsport … Flames captain Mark Giordano will skate in his 800th NHL game tonight … In that span, he’s scored 119 goals and 303 assists and 422 points … At 35-years-old with seven goals and 37 assists in 44 games, he can become the third defencemen in NHL history over the age of 35 to conclude a season averaging at least one point a game. He would join Boston’s Ray Bourque in 1995-96 (20 goals and 62 assists in 82 games) and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06 (16 goals and 64 assists in 80 games) … The Flames are 7-1-1 in the last nine games … Calgary leads all teams with 69 third period goals this season … their plus-35 goal differential in the third period this season is the highest in the NHL.

FLAMES LINEUP

Forwards

Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm

Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Michael Frolik

Sam Bennett – Mark Jankowski – James Neal

Andrew Mangiapane – Derek Ryan – Austin Czarnik

Defence

Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie

Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic

Oliver Kylington – Rasmus Andersson

Goaltenders 

Mike Smith

David Rittich

 

COYOTES LINEUP

Forwards

Clayton Keller – Derek Stepan – Christian Fischer

Richard Panik – Jordan Weal – Vinnie Hinostroza

Alex Galchenyuk – Nick Cousins – Conor Garland

Lawson Crouse – Laurent Dauphin – Mario Kempe

Defence

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Nick Hjalmarsson

Jakob Chychrun – Ilya Lybushkin

Jordan Oesterle – Alex Goligoski

Goaltenders 

Adin Hill

Darcy Kuemper

INJURIES

Coyotes — G Antti Raanta (lower body), RW Michael Grabner (eye), C Nick Schmaltz (knee), C Brad Richardson (hand), D Kevin Connauton (lower body), D Jason Demers (lower body), C Christian Dvorak (torn pectoral)

Flames — D Michael Stone (blood clot), D Juuso Valimaki (ankle)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play (prior to Saturday’s action)

Coyotes: 16.7% (23-of-138, 23rd)

Flames: 21.9% (35-of-160, 9th)

Penalty kill (prior to Saturday’s action)

Coyotes: 88.5% (1st)

Flames: 78.3% (21st)

— Kristen Anderson

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