by D'Arcy McGrath
October 26th, 2002

TONIGHT'S GAME:

Tonight, the resilient St. Louis Blues (4-1-1-0; 2nd Central Division) go up against the Calgary Flames (2-3-2-1; 4th Northwest Division). The prevailing thought at this early point in the season is how the Flames have already let three, maybe four points slip away from them in the standings - when you consider the Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas games. Four additional points would place them first in the division, and second overall in the league behind Tampa Bay (which is a statement in itself).

The Blues only have one loss this season despite seeing its top four goaltenders each go down to injury. Last game, fourth-stringer Curtis Sanford played outstanding against the Edmonton Oilers before he, too, got bit by the injury bug. Fifth-stringer Cory Rudkowsky did an outstanding job mopping up in his NHL debut and scoring the victory, however.

The Blues are certainly handling their goaltending crisis a lot better than the Flames did back in the 1998-99 season that saw Ken Wregget, Tyler Moss, J-S Giguere and Andrei Trefilov fall to injury during an eight-game losing streak before Fred Brathwaite was summoned from the Canadian National Team to help the team recover. Pavel Nestak, Igor Karpenko and Tyrone Garner all suited up for the club as well during their crisis.

The worst should now be over for the Blues, who have signed goaltender Tom Barrasso and expect Fred Brathwaite back tonight.

All-time the Flames are 32-37-8-1 against the Blues since moving to Calgary, including a record of 19-16-2-1 at home.

KEYS TO SUCCESS:

  • Iginla. It was inevitable the whispers would start about his play falling off should he fail to live up to expectations early on in the season. Two goals and six points and a -4 rating in eight games is not the start the Flames envisioned when they signed him. It's not for a lack of trying, however, as evidenced by his fight with Bill Guerin last game. 
  • Power play, anyone? It's starting to sound like a broken record repeating from the last five or six seasons, but 0-for-18 on the power play is not good and it's costing the team valuable points in the standings. 
  • Goaltending. 3.06 GAA and .889 save percentage for Roman Turek is not nearly as good as the Flames need him to be. He usually pulls out a good game against his former teams so that will be key tonight.

 

BY THE NUMBERS:

Rob Niedermayer, who set a goal of three or four shots per game before the start of the campaign, has seven shots in six games. The last time the Flames failed to gain a point against the Blues on home ice was October 6, 1999 (4-1 loss). Saturday night is the most common night for a Flames game this season, with 20 games slated to go on this day. There is also 20 games on Thursday nights oddly enough with the next highest being Tuesdays, with 13. The Flames' current average home attendance, at 16,033 is slightly above last year's total of 15,575. Calgary has an 0-0-2-0 record this season when Chris Clark scores, including last game. Stephane Yelle has fit in very well with the Flames so far this season, with five points and a +2 rating in eight games. He had 17 points all of last season with Colorado. The Blues' penalty killing is 29th in the league, at a pitiful 72.5%. Calgary's power play is 12.5% so it could be an ugly night on special teams.

NOTABLE:

It's amazing what a little confidence can do for a goaltender. Just two weeks ago, Sanford - who if the chips fell where they were supposed to was going to be the backup for the Worcester IceCats this season - looked terrible in his opening two games against the Manitoba Moose and was even pulled in his second outing. In three games with the Blues, Sanford has a solid 2.31 goals-against average. In the AHL, Sanford's GAA is 5.76 with an .845 save percentage. Reinhard Divis has been even better at the NHL level, with a 0.71 GAA and .973 save percentage. Unfortunately, both have fallen to injury in the Blues' "Bermuda crease" as it's being called. Former Flames first-rounder hasn't yet reported to Peoria of the ECHL after being demoted from Worcester before the start of the AHL season.

 

ROSTER UPDATES:

Calgary: The Flames are completely healthy,

St. Louis: The Blues have been plagued by injuries this season. Brent Johnson (high ankle sprain), Reinhard Divis (groin), Curtis Sanford (Achilles strain), Tyson Nash (foot), Daniel Corso (shoulder), Chris Pronger (wrist) and Rich Pilon (wrist) are all out. Fred Brathwaite (groin) is healed up and is the expected starter tonight.

WHO TO WATCH:

Calgary: It will be interesting to see how Chuck Kobasew reacts to being sent to the press box the last two games. It's likely he will come out flying, and should put up some points as well if placed on the right line. Another player to watch is Marc Savard, who seems to be slowly gaining the confidence of the coach. He was on the ice in the dying seconds of the last game, a 3-3 draw with Dallas.

St. Louis: With the signing of Tom Barrasso, Fred Brathwaite is now likely playing for a job on the team. He will be fired up tonight against his old team and will be tough to beat. Eric Boguniecki, who was an early cut in training camp and was set to start the season in Worcester, is playing outstanding for the Blues. In five games, he has two goals and five points and has been promoted to Doug Weight's line. For the first time as a Blue, Cory Stillman has been productive. He has six points in six games so far this year.

QUOTABLE:

"I have a different attitude coming into this season. I'm just not going to leave that easy. I'm going to play my butt off. Do whatever it takes to make it tough for them to get rid of me." - Blues goaltender Fred Brathwaite on the Tom Barrasso signing.

"It makes it interesting. We've only called up guys from the East Coast league to play this season. (In Calgary), we were calling guys up from there, juniors, anywhere." -Wild Blues winger Cory Stillman on the current goaltending injury situation in St. Louis.

HEAD-TO-HEAD:

FLAMES LAST 10 GAMES vs. BLUES

 

NEXT MEETING: The Blues return to the Saddledome on November 16.

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