Who else is excited to watch the Flames tonight?
Following a three-point performance from the perpetually downtrodden Jonathan Huberdeau
and a remarkable first period snipe from newcomer Andrei Kuzmenko,
there may be hope for Calgary’s first unit. It’s hard to deny the chemistry those two showed from shift one to shift 20.
Let’s get to the game day preview.
(23-22-5, 51 pts) vs New Jersey Devils
(25-20-3, 53 pts)
Calgary (6-4-0) New Jersey (4-5-1)
5:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time
Sportsnet One, Sportsnet West, MSGSN/MSG+, ESPN+
A few notes, thoughts and observations.
What a difference the return of Martin Pospisil, Jakob Pelletier and even Kevin Rooney made. Yes, Kevin Rooney. The 30-year-old looked like he had put hard time into building up his lower body while he was out of the lineup following shoulder surgery.
Injecting that speed into the lineup made a vast difference. Yes, Huberdeau and Kuzmenko found creative passing plays up the ice and over the blue line, but the hardline value of just skating fast can't be underrated.
Spreaking of A-to-B velocity, the New Jersey Devils bring a team style that capitalizes on quick transition and hard acceleration off turnovers. Noah Hanifin led all Flames in ice time against the Bruins on Tuesday (25:46) and will likely be deployed in the same manner. His skills defending off the rush will be sorely missed if he is ever traded.
Hanifin’s Last Game as a Flame?
Rumours are swirling and insiders are all pointing to a decision being made on Noah’s future coming out in the next week or so. TSN Analyst Chris Johnston relayed the same sentiments on Tuesday during a segment of Insider Trading:
“And I would expect in the coming days we will get some sort of idea of where it’s headed definitively, and that’s because Hanifin’s agents from CAA Sports are expected to have a conversation with Flames management where they present their final decision, where there’s something to be decided upon and that will ultimately propel this thing forward. And what we don’t know exactly which way that will go, I think it’s safe to say that if Calgary is not able to reach some kind of contract extension with Hanifin, they will use the time between now and March 8 to find a suitor, somewhere to trade him, and so we’ll keep our eyes on that.”
Elliotte Friedman said more or less the same in an episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast last Friday.
“They want an answer from Hanifin. I would suspect that they’ve asked for it in the near future, and just said, ‘Hey, are you staying or are you going?’
“If he’s leaving, they have to go out and start putting him out there. I think that is something they’ve asked Hanifin to decide over the break or in the very near future.”
We’re getting close to a defining moment in the future of the Calgary Flames. Would you rather have the 27-year-old stay on for the next eight seasons? Or would you rather get a package of likely a first round pick, a younger NHL player and a package of lower value futures?
The Devils need a defenceman like him. So do the Bruins. Even the Rangers might pony up. Here are two potential "hockey trades" in the purest sense of the term.
To the New Jersey Devils
To the Calgary Flames
A seventh overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Holtz may be enticing enough on his own to garner a one-for-one. The 22-year-old Swede is as pure of a sniper as it gets. It’s likely that the Devils would only pull the trigger if they knew that they could get Hanifin signed to a seven or eight year extension.
Holtz moved up to a higher skill line with Tyler Toffoli and Jack Hughes in the Devils’ most recent practice, but Devils head coach Lindy Ruff tapped the breaks on him being deployed on that line tonight.
Lindy Ruff per James Nichols:
“That definitely might not be a line. It’s something we put together. We’ve got some thoughts on lines too. For this morning, we let them skate together.”
Another potential trade involves a team that the Flames are set to play next Monday.
To the New York Rangers
To the Calgary Flames
2024 second round draft pick
Kakko has struggled with injury issues this season, but brings a power game and a ton of strength through the danger areas. Currently playing through a bit of a down year and a bit stuck on a lower skill line with Will Cuylle and Kyle Brodzinski, Kappo Kakko authored an 18-goal, 22-assist season in 2022-2023.
A change in environment may be all the 2nd overall pick in 2019 needs to establish himself as a core piece in an organization’s future plans.
Yegor Sharangovich and Tyler Toffoli prepare for round two against their former teams. Round one resulted in a 4-2 Devils win amid a 1-4-2 Flames early December slide. Yegor posted a goal in the effort while Toffoli, on his own early December slide, put up his fourth consecutive zero point game.
Chances are solid that Toffoli does better tonight. The veteran sniper has five goals in his last four games. Sharangovich comes into the night with three assists in his last four appearances.
Calgary Flames Projected Lineup
Courtesy of the Calgary Flames.
Devils Pre-Game Workflow
Courtesy of New Jersey Hockey Now’s James Nichols.
Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt
Timo Meier – Erik Haula – Dawson Mercer
Tyler Toffoli – Jack Hughes – Alexander Holtz
Curtis Lazar – Tomas Nosek – Nathan Bastian
Kevin Bahl – Simon Nemec
Luke Hughes – John Marino
Santeri Hatakka – Colin Miller
Game time is 5:08 p.m. MST.
Stats courtesy of naturalstattrick and nhl.com.